Full Text Political Transcripts January 31, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech Nominatng Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald J. Trump Nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court

Source: WH, 1-31-17

Today, President Donald J. Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. The nomination of Judge Gorsuch comes after a selection process marked by an unprecedented level of transparency and involvement by the American voters.

“I am proud to announce the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for Justice of the Supreme Court,” President Trump said. “This has been the most transparent and most important Supreme Court selection process in the history of our country and I wanted the American people to have a voice in this nomination. Judge Gorsuch has a superb intellect, an unparalleled legal education, and a commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its text. He will make an incredible Justice as soon as the Senate confirms him.”

Judge Gorsuch was born and raised in Colorado. He attended Columbia University and Harvard Law School. After graduating with honors, he received his doctorate from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar. Judge Gorsuch clerked for Judge David Sentelle of the D.C. Circuit and both Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Following a successful career in private practice, Judge Gorsuch joined the Department of Justice as the Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General. In 2006, President George W. Bush nominated him for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and he was confirmed by voice vote without objection. He has served with distinction, earning a reputation as a brilliant jurist with an outstanding intellect and a clear, incisive writing style, and he is universally respected for his integrity and fairness to all parties.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this nomination,” said Judge Gorsuch. “I look forward to meeting with Senators over the coming weeks as we begin this process.”

Background

Simple Bio

Full Text Political Transcripts January 31, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Statement on the Appointment of Dana Boente as Acting Attorney General

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Statement on the Appointment of Dana Boente as Acting Attorney General

Source: WH, 1-30-17

The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.

Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.

It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.

Tonight, President Trump relieved Ms. Yates of her duties and subsequently named Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve as Acting Attorney General until Senator Jeff Sessions is finally confirmed by the Senate, where he is being wrongly held up by Democrat senators for strictly political reasons.

“I am honored to serve President Trump in this role until Senator Sessions is confirmed. I will defend and enforce the laws of our country to ensure that our people and our nation are protected,” said Dana Boente, Acting Attorney General.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 30, 2017: Former President Barack Obama’s Statement on President Donald Trump’s Immigration Order

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Former President Barack Obama’s Statement on President Donald Trump’s Immigration Order Supporting Protests

President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as President, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy — not just during an election but every day.

Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.

With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 28, 2017: President Donald Trump’s First Week of Action

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s First Week of Action

Source: WH, 1-28-17

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FIRST WEEK OF ACTION

  • 15: Presidential Actions to begin fulfilling his promises to Make America Great Again.
  • 11: Diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders to promote an America First foreign policy.
  • 4: Members of President Trump’s cabinet sworn into office.
  • 3: Stakeholder meetings to get input from both workers and business leaders on jumpstarting job creation.
  • 3: Engagements with members of Congress to discuss his agenda.
  • 3: Visits to federal agencies committed to protecting our homeland and ensuring our national security.
  • 1: Official White House visit by a foreign head of state.
  • 1: Reception to honor law enforcement and first responders.
  • 1: Proclamation supporting National School Choice week.
  • The President’s team followed through on his commitment to action, by:
    • collaborating with 28 federal agencies and departments on a near daily basis.
    • discussing legislative items with at least 75 House members or their staffs and 35 Senators or their staffs.
    • making initial contact with governors in each state and territory, and having in-depth discussions with 32 governors or their staff.
    • discussing issues with 22 state attorneys general.
    • beginning outreach to our nation’s largest municipalities and tribes.

President Trump Used The Power Of His Office To Follow Through On His Promises To The American People

WITHIN HOURS OF HIS INAUGURATION: President Trump moved to protect Americans from ObamaCare, government regulations, and future bailouts.

  • On the evening of his Inauguration, President Trump sought relief for Americans from the cost burdens of ObamaCare.
  • Through a memorandum issued by the Chief of Staff, all new regulations were frozen to protect job creators from the crush of new government rules on their businesses.
  • President Trump put a stop to a reckless action that would have reduced funding for the Federal Housing Authority after it was bailed out by the taxpayers as recently as 2013.

MONDAY: President Trump fulfilled his promise to immediately address trade and jobs by withdrawing from the harmful Trans-Pacific Partnership, put in place a hiring freeze, and protected taxpayer money from funding abortions overseas.

  • President Trump protected American workers by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • To stem the tide of an ever growing government, President Trump put in place a hiring freeze on federal civilian employees.
  • After years of taxpayer money being spent to promote abortions abroad, President Trump reinstated the “Mexico City Policy” to ban such usage.

TUESDAY: President Trump promoted job creation by jumpstarting the construction of two new energy pipelines, requiring the use of American-made materials and equipment in building those pipelines, and reduced the regulatory burden on America’s manufacturing and construction industry.

  • President Trump began the process to finish construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline after a series of delays.
  • After years of delays, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum to revive the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • To make sure Americans benefit from infrastructure projects, the President signed an executive memorandum requiring all new construction and repair of pipelines to use American materials and equipment.
  • President Trump ordered the Commerce Department to streamline and reduce regulations affecting U.S. manufacturing to help bring factories back to America.
  • To jumpstart much needed infrastructure projects, President Trump signed an executive order to speed up the environmental impact review of projects.

WEDNESDAY: President Trump followed through on his pledge to protect America’s borders and end the lack of compliance with immigration laws.

  • Following through on his commitment to protecting the American people, President Trump signed an executive order to improve border security, particularly through the construction of a physical barrier on the southern border.
  • President Trump signed an executive order to ensure that immigration laws are enforced throughout the United States, including halting federal funding for sanctuary cities.

FRIDAY: President Trump followed through on his top priority to keep America safe.

  • President Trump signed an executive order protecting the United States from foreign nationals entering from countries compromised by terrorism, and ensuring a more rigorous vetting process.
  • President Trump issued a presidential memorandum to direct the Secretary of Defense to review our readiness and create plans to rebuild the U.S. military.

President Trump Has Held or Scheduled 11 Conversations With Foreign Leaders To Promote American Interests Around The Globe

  • On Saturday, President Trump spoke with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and discussed respect for the sovereignty of both nations.
  • On Saturday, President Trump also spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the importance of strong U.S.-Canada ties.
  • On Sunday, President Trump spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss opportunities to strengthen relations.
  • On Monday, President Trump spoke with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi of Egypt, expressing his commitment for a new push in bilateral relations.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to strengthen relations and cooperation.
  • Today, President Trump spoke again with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico to discuss bilateral relations, border security and trade.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of with Japan
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with President François Hollande of France.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia.

Four Of President Trump’s Nominees Were Confirmed By The Senate And Sworn Into Office

  • Last Friday, retired General John Kelly was sworn in as Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • Also last Friday, retired General James Mattis was sworn in as Secretary of Defense.
  • On Monday, former Congressman Mike Pompeo was sworn in as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
  • On Wednesday, former Governor Nikki Haley was sworn in as Ambassador to the United Nations.

Following Through On His Commitment To Job Creation, President Trump Held Stakeholder Meetings With Business And Labor Leaders

  • On Monday, President Trump met with labor leaders to discuss his plans to renegotiate trade deals and put Americans back to work.
  • Later on Monday, President Trump met with manufacturing leaders to discuss how to bring factories and manufacturing jobs back to America.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump met with key industry leaders to discuss how the auto industry can bring back American jobs.

President Trump Held Meetings Or Spoke With Congressional Leaders To Discuss His Agenda

  • On Monday, President Trump hosted Republican and Democrat congressional leaders and chiefs of staff at the White House to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump met with key Senate leaders to discuss his upcoming choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
  • On Thursday, President Trump spoke at the Republican congressional retreat in Philadelphia.

President Trump Spoke At The Headquarters Of The CIA, The Department Of Homeland Security, And The Department Of Defense

  • On Saturday, President Trump spoke at CIA headquarters and told a raucous crowd that he’d have their back as he thanked them for their service to the country.
  • On Wednesday, President Trump visited the Department of Homeland Security to reinforce his strong belief in protecting America’s borders.
  • On Wednesday, President Trump visited the Department of Defense to highlight his commitment to rebuild our military.

President Trump Hosted U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May

  • In hosting his first foreign head of state at the White House, President Trump welcomed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May.

As One Of His First Actions After Inauguration Day, President Trump Thanked American Law Enforcement And First Responders

  • On Sunday, President Trump held a White House Reception to honor and thank law enforcement and first responders who helped make his Inauguration safe and successful.

President Trump Proclaimed National School Choice Week

  • On Thursday, President Trump renewed his commitment to expand school choice for Americans by proclaiming January 22 through January 28, 2017, as National School Choice Week.

The President’s Team Is Following Through On His Commitment To Action

President Trump’s team has worked to ensure his team is in place at various departments and agencies and working to implement his agenda:

  • The White House Office of Cabinet Affairs made 140 calls to 28 separate federal departments and agencies to collaborate on various issues.
  • Cabinet Affairs personally met with 10 Cabinet nominees.
  • Cabinet Affairs coordinated the swearing in of four cabinet members this week by the Vice President.

President Trump’s team has worked to ensure his legislative agenda is well-received in Congress:

  • The White House Office of Legislative Affairs met or spoke with 110 congressional offices or elected representatives in 75 House and 35 Senate offices.
  • Vice President Pence had several in-person meetings this week on Capitol Hill.

President Trump’s team began outreach to our nation’s states, municipalities, and tribes:

  • The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs made initial contact with the governor’s offices in all of the states and territories.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs held detailed discussions with the governors or their staff in 32 separate states.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs made initial contact with 22 of the 50 state attorneys general.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs has begun outreach to America’s largest municipalities, such as Los Angeles County and met with the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs made contact with the largest tribes in the country and has begun outreach with many leaders.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 28, 2017: President Donald Trump’s First Weekly Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s First Weekly Address

Source: WH, 1-28-17

TRANSCRIPT:

My fellow Americans,

One week ago, our administration assumed the enormous responsibilities that you, the American People, have placed in us.

There is much work to do in the days ahead, but I wanted to give you an update on what we have accomplished already.

In my first few days as your President, I’ve met with the leaders of some of our nation’s top manufacturing companies and labor unions.

My message was clear: we want to make things in America, and we want to use American workers.

Since my election, many companies have announced they are no longer moving jobs out of our country but are instead keeping and creating jobs right here in America.

Every day, we are fulfilling the promise we made to the American People.  Here are just a few of the executive actions that I have taken in the last few days –

–An order to prepare for repealing and replacing Obamacare, it’s about time.

–The withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership so that we can negotiate one-on-one deals that protect American workers. That would have been a disastrous deal for our workers.

–An order to begin construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, following a renegotiation of terms, with a requirement that pipelines installed in America be built with American steel and manufactured here.

–A directive to expedite permits for new infrastructure and new manufacturing plants.

–An order to immediately begin the border wall and to crack down on sanctuary cities. They are not safe, we have to take care of that horrible situation.

This administration has hit the ground running at a record pace, everybody is talking about it. We are doing it with speed and we are doing it with intelligence and we will never, ever stop fighting on behalf of the American People.

God bless you, and God Bless America.

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 27, 2017: President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Joint Press Conference

President Trump and Prime Minister May’s Opening Remarks

Source: WH, 1-27-17

President Donald J. Trump: “Thank you very much.  I am honored to have Prime Minister Theresa May here for our first official visit from a foreign leader.  This is our first visit, so — great honor.

The special relationship between our two countries has been one of the great forces in history for justice and for peace.  And, by the way, my mother was born in Scotland — Stornoway — which is serious Scotland.

Today, the United States renews our deep bond with Britain — military, financial, cultural, and political.  We have one of the great bonds.  We pledge our lasting support to this most special relationship.  Together, America and the United Kingdom are a beacon for prosperity and the rule of law.  That is why the United States respects the sovereignty of the British people and their right of self-determination.  A free and independent Britain is a blessing to the world, and our relationship has never been stronger.

Both America and Britain understand that governments must be responsive to everyday working people, that governments must represent their own citizens.

Madam Prime Minister, we look forward to working closely with you as we strengthen our mutual ties in commerce, business and foreign affairs.  Great days lie ahead for our two peoples and our two countries.

On behalf of our nation, I thank you for joining us here today.  It’s a really great honor.  Thank you very much.”

Prime Minister Theresa May: “Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.  And can I start by saying that I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to be here today.  And thank you for inviting me so soon after your inauguration.  And I’m delighted to be able to congratulate you on what was a stunning election victory.

And, as you say, the invitation is an indication of the strength and importance of the special relationship that exists between our two countries — a relationship based on the bonds of history, of family, kinship and common interest.  And in a further sign of the importance of that relationship, I have today been able to convey Her Majesty The Queen’s hope that President Trump and the First Lady would pay a state visit to the United Kingdom later this year.  And I’m delighted that the President has accepted that invitation.

Now, today, we’re discussing a number of topics, and there’s much on which we agree.  The President has mentioned foreign policy.  We’re discussing how we can work even more closely together in order to take on and defeat Daesh and the ideology of Islamist extremism wherever it’s found.

Our two nations are already leading efforts to face up to this challenge, and we’re making progress with Daesh losing territory and fighters, but we need to redouble our efforts.  And today, we are discussing how we can do this by deepening intelligence and security cooperation and, critically, by stepping up our efforts to counter Daesh in cyberspace.  Because we know we will not eradicate this threat until we defeat the idea — the ideology that lies behind it.

Our talks will be continuing later.  I’m sure we’ll discuss other topics — Syria and Russia.

On defense and security cooperation, we are united in our recognition of NATO as the bulwark of our collective defense.  And today, we’ve reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to this alliance.  Mr. President, I think you said — you confirmed that you’re 100 percent behind NATO.  But we’re also discussing the importance of NATO continuing to ensure it is as equipped to fight terrorism and cyber warfare as it is to fight more conventional forms of war.

And I’ve agreed to continue my efforts to encourage my fellow European leaders to deliver on their commitments to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense so that the burden is more fairly shared.  It’s only by investing properly in our defense that we can ensure we’re properly equipped to face our shared challenges together.

And finally, the President and I have mentioned future economic cooperation and trade.  Trade between our two countries is already worth over $150 billion pounds a year.  The U.S. is the single-biggest source of inward investment to the UK, and together we’ve around $1 trillion invested in each other’s economies.  And the UK-U.S. defense relationship is the broadest, deepest, and most advanced of any two countries sharing military hardware and expertise.  And I think the President and I are ambitious to build on this relationship in order to grow our respective economies, provide the high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future for working people across America and across the UK.

And so we are discussing how we can establish a trade negotiation agreement, take forward immediate, high-level talks, lay the groundwork for a UK-U.S. trade agreement, and identify the practical steps we can take now in order to enable companies in both countries to trade and do business with one another more easily.

And I’m convinced that a trade deal between the U.S. and the UK is in the national interest of both countries and will cement the crucial relationship that exists between us, particularly as the UK leaves the European Union and reaches out to the world.

Today’s talks I think are a significant moment for President Trump and I to build our relationship.  And I look forward to continuing to work with you as we deliver on the promises of freedom and prosperity for all the people of our respective countries.”

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 27, 2017: Vice President Mike Pence’s Speech at the March for Life

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

March for Life Remarks of Vice President Pence – As Prepared for Delivery

Source: WH, 1-27-17

MARCH FOR LIFE

FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.

As Prepared for Delivery –

On behalf of President Donald Trump, my wife Karen, and our daughter Charlotte, I’d like to welcome you all to Washington, D.C. for the 44th annual March for Life.

And I am deeply humbled to be the first Vice President of the United States to ever have the privilege to attend this historic gathering.

More than two-hundred and forty years ago, our Founders wrote words that have echoed through the ages.

They declared “these truths to be self-evident.” That we are, all of us, “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and “that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Forty-four years ago, our Supreme Court turned away from the first of these timeless ideals.

But today, three generations hence, because of all of you, and the many more who stand with us in marches just like this across this nation, life is winning in America again.

That is evident in the election of pro-life majorities in the Congress of the United States.

But it is no more evident than in the historic election of a president who stands for a stronger America, a more prosperous America, and a president who I proudly say stands for the right to life – President Donald Trump.

President Trump actually asked me to be here today to thank all of you for your support and for your stand for life and for your compassion for the women and children of this nation.

One week ago today, on the steps of the Capitol, we saw the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. Our President is a man with broad shoulders and a big heart. His vision, his energy, and his optimism are boundless, and I know he will Make America Great Again.

From his first day in office, he has been keeping his promises to the American people.

And at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we’re in the promise-keeping business.

That’s why, on Monday President Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy to prevent foreign aid from funding organizations that promote or perform abortions.

That’s why this administration will work with Congress to end taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers, and we will devote those resources to health-care services for women across America.

And that’s why, next week, President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.

Life is winning in America. And today is a celebration of the progress that we have made in the cause.

You know, I have long believed that a society can be judged by how we care for our most vulnerable – the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn.

We’ve come to a historic moment in the cause of life, and we must meet this moment with respect and compassion for every American.

Life is winning in America for many reasons.

Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life begins.

Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families, who open their hearts and homes to children in need.

Life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations who minister to women, in cities and towns across this country.

And life is winning through the quiet counsels between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, between friends across kitchen tables, and over coffee on college campuses the truth is being told and compassion is overcoming convenience, hope is defeating despair.

In a word, life is winning in America because of all of you.

So I urge you to press on.

But as it is written, “let your gentleness be evident to all.” Let this movement be known for love, not anger – for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there’s nothing stronger than gentleness.

I believe we will continue to win the hearts and the minds of the rising generation if our hearts first break for young mothers and their unborn children and we do all we can to meet them where they are, with generosity, not judgment.

To heal our land and restore a culture of life we must continue to be a movement that embraces all and cares for all out of respect for the dignity and worth of every person.

Enshrined on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial are the words of our third president, who admonished us to remember that “God who gave us life gave us liberty.”

On behalf of the President of the United States, and my little family, we thank you for your stand for life, for your compassion, for your love for the women and children of this nation.

Be assured, we will not grow weary. We will not rest until we restore a culture of life for ourselves and our posterity.

God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 26, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at GOP Retreat Philadelphia, PA

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald Trump’s Speech at GOP Retreat Philadelphia, PA

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 25, 2017: President Trump’s Remarks at Department of Homeland Security

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s Remarks at Department of Homeland Security

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 21, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Remarks at CIA Headquarters

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s Remarks at CIA Headquarters

(as delivered)

Thank you.

Well. I want to thank everybody. Very, very special people. And it is true: this is my first stop. Officially. We’re not talking about the balls, and we’re not talking about even the speeches. Although, they did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday [laughter].

I always call them “the dishonest media”, but they treated me nicely.

But, I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the Intelligence Community and the CIA than Donald Trump. [applause]. There’s Nobody. Nobody.

And the wall behind me is very very special. We’ve been touring for quite a while. And I’ll tell you what: twenty … nine? I can’t believe it.. No. Twenty eight. We’ve got to reduce it. That’s amazing. And we really appreciate it what you ‘ve done in terms of showing us something very special. And your whole group. These are really special, amazing people. Very. very few people could do the job you people do.

And I want to just let you know: I am so behind you. And I know, maybe sometimes, you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted. And you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say “please don’t give us so much backing”. [laughter] “Mr President, please, we don’t need that much backing”.

But you’re going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.

You know, the military, and the law-enforcement generally speaking, — but, all of it — but the military, gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military and probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. [laughter]

But I would guarantee a big portion. Because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks. We’re all on the same wavelength. [applause] Alight? [pointing to the crowd] He knows. Took Brian about 30 seconds to figure that one out, right? Because we know. We’re on the same wavelength.

We’re going to do great things. We’re going to do great things. We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained.

We have to get rid of ISIS. We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice [applause]

Radical Islamic terrorism – and I said it yesterday – has to be eradicated. Just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil.

And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side. There can be wars between countries. There can be wars. You can understand what happened. This is something nobody could even understand. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen.

You’re going to go to it, and you’re going to do a phenomenal job. But we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it.

You have somebody coming on who is extraordinary. You know for the different positions, of secretary of this and secretary of that and all of these great positions, I’d see five, six, seven, eight people.

And we had a great transition. We had an amazing team of talent.

And by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand, Mike. What a good guy [applause]

And Reince, and my whole group. Reince. You know Reince? They don’t care about Reince. He’s like, this political guy that turned out to be a superstar, right? We don’t have to talk about Reince.

But, we did. We had just such a tremendous, tremendous success.

So when I’m interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly, and in this case went so quickly. Because I would see six or seven or eight for secretary of agriculture, who we just named the other day. Sunny Perdue. Former Governor of Georgia. Fantastic guy. But I’d see six, seven, eight people for a certain position. Everybody wanted it.

But I met Mike Pompeo, and he was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said “cancel everybody else”. Cancel. Now he was approved, essentially. But they’re doing a little political games with me. You know, he was one of the three.

Now, last night, as you know, General Mattis – fantastic guy – and General Kelly got approved [applause]

And Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in that group; it was going to be the three of them. Can you imagine? All of these guys. People respect … they respect that military sense. All my political people? They’re not doing so well. The political people aren’t doing so well… but you … We’re going to get them all through. But some will take a little bit longer than others.

But Mike was literally — I had a group of, what, we had nine different people? — Now. I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

But I met him, and I said “he is so good”. Number one in his class at West Point. Now, I know a lot about West Point. I’m a person that very strongly believes in academics. In fact, every time I say, I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years, who did a fantastic job in so many different ways academically. He was an academic genius.

And then they say: “is Donald Trump an intellectual?” Trust me. I’m like a smart person. [laughter] [pointing at Mike Pompeo] And I recognized immediately,

So he was Number 1 at West Point. And he was also essentially number 1 at Harvard Law School. And then he decided to go into the military. And he ran for Congress. And everything he’s done has been a home run.

People like him. But much more importantly to me, everybody respects him.

When I told Paul Ryan that I want to do this, I would say, he may be the only person that was not totally thrilled, right, Mike? Because he said “I don’t want to lose this guy”.

You will be getting a total star. You going to be getting a total gem. He is a gem. And I just …. [applause] You’ll see. You’ll see. And many of you know him anyway. But you’re going to see.

And again: we have some great people going, but this one is something, going to be very special, because this is one of — if I had to name the most important, this would certainly be, perhaps, you know, in certain ways, you could even say my most important.

You do the job like everybody in this room is capable of doing.

And the generals are wonderful and the fighting is wonderful. But if you give them the right direction? Boy does the fighting become easier. And boy do we lose so fewer lives, and win so … quickly.

And that’s what we have to do. We have to start winning again.

You know what? When I was young, And when I was … of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30. 35. 39. [laughter]. Somebody said “are you young?” I said “I think I’m young”.

You know, I was stopping when we were in the final month of that campaign. Four stops, five stops. Seven stops. Speeches — speeches — in front of twenty five, thirty thousand people. Fifteen thousand, nineteen thousand, from stop to stop.

I feel young.

But when I was young — and I think we’re all sort of young — when I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars.

At a certain age I remember hearing from one of my instructors “The United States has never lost a war”.

And then, after that, it’s like, we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore.,

The old expression: “to the victor belong the spoils” – you remember? You always used to say “keep the oil”. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you. When we were in, we got out wrong.

And I always said: “In addition to that, keep the oil”.

Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about, Mike, if we kept the oil we would probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil.

But okay. [laughter] Maybe we’ll have another chance.

But the fact is: we should’ve kept the oil. I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country towards making us safe, towards making us winners again. Towards ending all of the problems — we have so many problems that are interrelated that we don’t even think of, but interrelated — to the kind of havoc and fear that this sick group of people has caused.

So I can only say that I am with you 1000%. And the reason you’re my first stop is that as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. [laughter, applause]

And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the Intelligence Community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number 1 stop is exactly the opposite. Exactly. And they understand that too.

And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday, the speech, and everybody really liked the speech, you had to right? [applause]

We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed.

I get up this morning. I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I say: “wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was…. It looked like a million, a million and a half people.” They showed a field where there was practically nobody standing there. And they said “Donald Trump did not draw well”. And I said “well it was almost raining”. The rain should have scared them away. But God looked down and he said “we’re not going to let it rain on your speech”.

In fact, when I first started I said “oh no”. First line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And i said “oh, this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it”. But the truth is: that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sudden, and then I walked off and it poured right after I left – it poured.

But you know, we have something that’s amazing because, we had, it looked honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.

And I turn on by mistake and I get this network shows an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people.

Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around, you know, the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20 block area all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed.

So we caught them. And we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.

They had another one yesterday which was interesting. In the Oval Office there’s a beautiful statue of Dr Martin Luther King. And I also happen to like Churchill. Winston Churchill. I think most of us like Churchill. He doesn’t come from our country. But he had lot to do with it. He helped us. A real ally.

And as you know, the Churchill statue was taken out. The bust. And as you probably also have read, the Prime Minister is coming over to our country very shortly, and they wanted to know whether or not I’d like it back. And I said “absolutely, but in the meantime we have a bust of Churchill”.

So a reporter for Time magazine. And I have been on their cover like 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all time record in the history of Time magazine. Like it Tom Brady is on the cover of Time magazine, it’s one time, because he won the Superbowl or something, right? [laughter]. I’ve been on for 15 times this year.

I don’t think that’s a record, Mike, that they can ever be broken, do you agree with that? What do you think?

But I will say that, he said something that was very interesting: that “Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr Martin Luther King”. It was right there. But there was a cameraman that was in front of it.

So Zeke – Zeke – from Time magazine writes a story about how I took it down. But I would never do that, because I have great respect for Dr Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is: a big story. And the retraction was like — was it a line? Or did they even bother putting it in?
So I only like to say that because I love honesty. I like honest reporting. I will tell you the final time: although I will say it, when you let in your thousands of other people that had been trying to come in, because I am coming back.

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 21, 2017: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer First Press Briefing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer First Press Briefing

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 20, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

The Inaugural Address

Source: WH, 1-20-17

REMARKS OF PRESIDENT DONALD J.  TRUMP – AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

INAUGURAL ADDRESS

FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.

As Prepared for Delivery –

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world: thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people.

Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.

We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.

Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.

Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth.

Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.

Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.

It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.

This is your day. This is your celebration.

And this, the United States of America, is your country.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now.

You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.

Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.

These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation – and their pain is our pain.  Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success.  We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry;

Subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military;

We’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own;

And spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.

We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.

The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.

But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future.

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.

From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.

From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.  Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

I will fight for you with every breath in my body – and I will never, ever let you down.

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders.  We will bring back our wealth.  And we will bring back our dreams.

We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American.

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The Bible tells us, “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.

When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.

There should be no fear – we are protected, and we will always be protected.

We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger.

In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.

We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action – constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.

The time for empty talk is over.

Now arrives the hour of action.

Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done.  No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.

We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.

A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.

It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:

You will never be ignored again.

Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together, We Will Make America Strong Again.

We Will Make America Wealthy Again.

We Will Make America Proud Again.

We Will Make America Safe Again.

And, Yes, Together, We Will Make America Great Again. Thank you, God Bless You, And God Bless America.

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 19, 2017: Final West Wing Week 01/19/17 or, “Obama, Farewell”

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

The Obama Administration’s Final — and 388th — episode of West Wing Week

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 19, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Departing Letter to the American People

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Departing Letter to the American People

Thank You

Source: WH, 1-19-17

Summary:
I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th President.

Editor’s note: President Obama sent this final message to the White House email list this morning. 


My fellow Americans,

It’s a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It’s a letter meant to share what we know, what we’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.

But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I’ve learned in my time in office, I’ve learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I’ve pulled strength. I’ve seen neighbors and communities take care of each other during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers — and found grace in a Charleston church.

I’ve taken heart from the hope of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and wounded warriors once given up for dead walk again. I’ve seen Americans whose lives have been saved because they finally have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognized as equal to our own. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.

I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding.

All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.

I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.

And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’

Yes, we can.

And if you’d like to stay connected, you can sign up here to keeping getting updates from me.

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 18, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at his Final Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Final Press Conference

Source: WH, 1-18-17

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:24 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Let me start out by saying that I was sorely tempted to wear a tan suit today — (laughter) — for my last press conference.  But Michelle, whose fashion sense is a little better than mine, tells me that’s not appropriate in January.

I covered a lot of the ground that I would want to cover in my farewell address last week.  So I’m just going to say a couple of quick things before I start taking questions.

First, we have been in touch with the Bush family today, after hearing about President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush being admitted to the hospital this morning.  They have not only dedicated their lives to this country, they have been a constant source of friendship and support and good counsel for Michelle and me over the years.  They are as fine a couple as we know.  And so we want to send our prayers and our love to them.  Really good people.

Second thing I want to do is to thank all of you.  Some of you have been covering me for a long time — folks like Christi and Win.  Some of you I’ve just gotten to know.  We have traveled the world together.  We’ve hit a few singles, a few doubles together.  I’ve offered advice that I thought was pretty sound, like “don’t do stupid…stuff.”  (Laughter.)  And even when you complained about my long answers, I just want you to know that the only reason they were long was because you asked six-part questions.  (Laughter.)

But I have enjoyed working with all of you.  That does not, of course, mean that I’ve enjoyed every story that you have filed.  But that’s the point of this relationship.  You’re not supposed to be sycophants, you’re supposed to be skeptics.  You’re supposed to ask me tough questions.  You’re not supposed to be complimentary, but you’re supposed to cast a critical eye on folks who hold enormous power and make sure that we are accountable to the people who sent us here.

And you have done that.  And you’ve done it, for the most part, in ways that I could appreciate for fairness even if I didn’t always agree with your conclusions.  And having you in this building has made this place work better.  It keeps us honest.  It makes us work harder.  It made us think about how we are doing what we do and whether or not we’re able to deliver on what’s been requested by our constituents.

And for example, every time you’ve asked “why haven’t you cured Ebola yet,” or “why is that still that hole in the Gulf,” it has given me the ability to go back to my team and say, “will you get this solved before the next press conference?”  (Laughter.)

I spent a lot of time in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy.  It goes without saying that essential to that is a free press.  That is part of how this place, this country, this grand experiment in self-government has to work.  It doesn’t work if we don’t have a well-informed citizenry.  And you are the conduit through which they receive the information about what’s taking place in the halls of power.

So America needs you, and our democracy needs you.  We need you to establish a baseline of facts and evidence that we can use as a starting point for the kind of reasoned and informed debates that ultimately lead to progress.  And so my hope is, is that you will continue with the same tenacity that you showed us to do the hard work of getting to the bottom of stories and getting them right, and to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves.  And to push this country to be the best version of itself.

I have no doubt that you will do so.  I’m looking forward to being an active consumer of your work rather than always the subject of it.  I want to thank you all for your extraordinary service to our democracy.

And with that, I will take some questions.  And I will start with Jeff Mason — whose term apparently is not up.  I thought we’d be going out together, brother, but you got to hang around for a while.  (Laughter.)

Q    I’m staying put.

THE PRESIDENT:  Jeff Mason, Reuters.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Are you concerned, Mr. President, that commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence will send a message that leaking classified material will not generate a tough sentence to groups like WikiLeaks?  How do you reconcile that in light of WikiLeaks’ connection to Russia’s hacking in last year’s election?  And related to that, Julian Assange has now offered to come to the United States.  Are you seeking that?  And would he be charged or arrested if he came here?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, let’s be clear, Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence.  So the notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital, classified information would think that it goes unpunished I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served.

It has been my view that given she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportional — disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received, and that she had served a significant amount of time, that it made it sense to commute — and not pardon — her sentence.

And I feel very comfortable that justice has been served and that a message has still been sent that when it comes to our national security, that wherever possible, we need folks who may have legitimate concerns about the actions of government or their superiors or the agencies in which they work — that they try to work through the established channels and avail themselves of the whistleblower protections that had been put in place.

I recognize that there’s some folks who think they’re not enough, and I think all of us, when we’re working in big institutions, may find ourselves at times at odds with policies that are set.  But when it comes to national security, we’re often dealing with people in the field whose lives may be put at risk, or the safety and security and the ability of our military or our intelligence teams or embassies to function effectively.  And that has to be kept in mind.

So with respect to WikiLeaks, I don’t see a contradiction.  First of all, I haven’t commented on WikiLeaks, generally.  The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails that were leaked.

I don’t pay a lot of attention to Mr. Assange’s tweets, so that wasn’t a consideration in this instance.  And I’d refer you to the Justice Department for any criminal investigations, indictments, extradition issues that may come up with him.

What I can say broadly is that, in this new cyber age, we’re going to have to make sure that we continually work to find the right balance of accountability and openness and transparency that is the hallmark of our democracy, but also recognize that there are adversaries and bad actors out there who want to use that same openness in ways that hurt us — whether that’s in trying to commit financial crimes, or trying to commit acts of terrorism, or folks who want to interfere with our elections.

And we’re going to have to continually build the kind of architecture that makes sure the best of our democracy is preserved; that our national security and intelligence agencies have the ability to carry out policy without advertising to our adversaries what it is that we’re doing, but do so in a way that still keeps citizens up to speed on what their government is doing on their behalf.

But with respect to Chelsea Manning, I looked at the particulars of this case the same way I have for the other commutations and pardons that I’ve done, and I felt that in light of all the circumstances that commuting her sentence was entirely appropriate.

Margaret Brennan.

Q    Mr. President, thank you.  The President-elect has said that he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia if they substantially reduced their nuclear stockpile.  Given your own efforts at arms control, do you think that’s an effective strategy?  Knowing this office and Mr. Trump, how would you advise his advisors to help him be effective when he deals with Vladimir Putin?  And given your actions recently on Russia, do you think those sanctions should be viewed as leverage?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, a couple of things.  Number one, I think it is in America’s interest and the world’s interest that we have a constructive relationship with Russia.  That’s been my approach throughout my presidency.  Where our interests have overlapped, we’ve worked together.  At the beginning of my term, I did what I could to encourage Russia to be a constructive member of the international community, and tried to work with the President and the government of Russia in helping them diversify their economy, improve their economy, use the incredible talents of the Russian people in more constructive ways.

I think it’s fair to say that after President Putin came back into the presidency that an escalating anti-American rhetoric and an approach to global affairs that seemed to be premised on the idea that whatever America is trying to do must be bad for Russia and so we want to try and counteract whatever they do — that return to an adversarial spirit that I think existed during the Cold War has made the relationship more difficult.  And it was hammered home when Russia went into Crimea and portions of Ukraine.

The reason we imposed the sanctions, recall, was not because of nuclear weapons issues.  It was because the independence and sovereignty of a country, Ukraine, had been encroached upon, by force, by Russia.  That wasn’t our judgment; that was the judgment of the entire international community.  And Russia continues to occupy Ukrainian territory and meddle in Ukrainian affairs and support military surrogates who have violated basic international law and international norms.

What I’ve said to the Russians is, as soon as you’ve stop doing that the sanctions will be removed.  And I think it would probably best serve not only American interest but also the interest of preserving international norms if we made sure that we don’t confuse why these sanctions have been imposed with a whole set of other issues.

On nuclear issues, in my first term we negotiated the START II treaty. and that has substantially reduced our nuclear stockpiles, both Russia and the United States.  I was prepared to go further.  I told President Putin I was prepared to go further.  They have been unwilling to negotiate.  If President-elect Trump is able to restart those talks in a serious way, I think there remains a lot of room for our two countries to reduce our stockpiles.  And part of the reason we’ve been successful on our nonproliferation agenda and on our nuclear security agenda is because we were leading by example.

I hope that continues.  But I think it’s important just to remember that the reason sanctions have been put in place against Russia has to do with their actions in Ukraine.  And it is important for the United States to stand up for the basic principle that big countries don’t go around and invade and bully smaller countries.  I’ve said before, I expect Russia and Ukraine to have a strong relationship.  They are, historically, bound together in all sorts of cultural and social ways.  But Ukraine is an independent country.

And this is a good example of the vital role that America has to continue to play around the world in preserving basic norms and values, whether it’s advocating on behalf of human rights, advocating on behalf of women’s rights, advocating on behalf of freedom of the press.

The United States has not always been perfect in this regard.  There are times where we, by necessity, are dealing with allies or friends or partners who, themselves, are not meeting the standards that we would like to see met when it comes to international rules and norms.  But I can tell you that in every multilateral setting — in the United Nations, in the G20, in the G7 — the United States typically has been on the right side of these issues.  And it is important for us to continue to be on the right side of these issues, because if we, the largest, strongest country and democracy in the world, are not willing to stand up on behalf of these values, then certainly China, Russia, and others will not.

Kevin Corke.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You have been a strong supporter of the idea of a peaceful transfer of power, demonstrated not terribly far from the Rose Garden.  And yet, even as you and I speak, there are more than five dozen Democrats that are going to boycott the inauguration of the incoming President.  Do you support that?  And what message would you send to Democrats to better demonstrate the peaceful transfer of power?

And if I could follow, I wanted to ask you about your conversations with the President-elect previously.  And without getting into too much of the personal side of it, I’m just curious, were you able to use that opportunity to convince him to take a fresh look at some of the important ideas that you will leave this office with — maintaining some semblance of the Affordable Care Act, some idea of keeping DREAMers here in the country without fear of deportation.  Were you able to use personal stories to try to convince him?  And how successful were you?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I won’t go into details of my conversations with President-elect Trump.  As I’ve said before, they are cordial.  At times they’ve been fairly lengthy and they’ve been substantive.  I can’t tell you how convincing I’ve been.  I think you’d had to ask him whether I’ve been convincing or not.

I have offered my best advice, counsel about certain issues both foreign and domestic.  And my working assumption is, is that having won an election opposed to a number of my initiatives and certain aspects of my vision for where the country needs to go, it is appropriate for him to go forward with his vision and his values.  And I don’t expect that there’s going to be enormous overlap.

It may be that on certain issues, once he comes into office and he looks at the complexities of how to, in fact, provide health care for everybody — something he says he wants to do — or wants to make sure that he is encouraging job creation and wage growth in this country, that that may lead him to some of the same conclusions that I arrived at once I got here.

But I don’t think we’ll know until he has an actual chance to get sworn in and sit behind that desk.  And I think a lot of his views are going to be shaped by his advisors, the people around him — which is why it’s important to pay attention to these confirmation hearings.

I can tell you that — and this is something I have told him — that this is a job of such magnitude that you can’t do it by yourself.  You are enormously reliant on a team.  Your Cabinet, your senior White House staff, all the way to fairly junior folks in their 20s and 30s, but who are executing on significant responsibilities.

And so how you put a team together to make sure that they’re getting you the best information and they are teeing up the options from which you will ultimately make decisions, that’s probably the most useful advice, the most constructive advice that I’ve been able to give him.  That if you find yourself isolated because the process breaks down, or if you’re only hearing from people who agree with you on everything, or if you haven’t created a process that is fact-checking and probing and asking hard questions about policies or promises that you’ve made, that’s when you start making mistakes.  And as I indicated in some of my previous remarks, reality has a way of biting back if you’re not paying attention to it.

With respect to the inauguration, I’m not going to comment on those issues.  All I know is I’m going to be there.  So is Michelle.  And I have been checking the weather, and I’m heartened by the fact that it won’t be as cold as my first inauguration — (laughter) — because that was cold.

Jen Rodriguez.

Q    Right here, Mr. President.  Thank you very much.  You have said that you would come back to fight for the DREAMers.  You said that a couple of weeks ago.  Are you fearful for the status of those DREAMers, the future of the young immigrants and all immigrants in this country with the new administration?  And what did you mean when you said you would come back?  Would you lobby Congress?  Maybe explore the political arena again?  And if I may ask you a second question — why did you take action on “dry foot, wet foot” a week ago?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me be absolutely clear.  I did not mean that I was going to be running for anything anytime soon.  (Laughter.)  What I meant is that it’s important for me to take some time to process this amazing experience that we’ve gone through; to make sure that my wife, with whom I will be celebrating a 25th anniversary this year, is willing to re-up and put up with me for a little bit longer.  I want to do some writing.  I want to be quiet a little bit and not hear myself talk so darn much.  I want to spend precious time with my girls.

So those are my priorities this year.  But as I said before, I’m still a citizen.  And I think it is important for Democrats or progressives who feel that they came out on the wrong side of this election to be able to distinguish between the normal back-and-forth, ebb and flow of policy — are we going to raise taxes or are we going to lower taxes; are we going to expand this program or eliminate this program; how concerned are we about air pollution or climate change.  Those are all normal parts of the debate.  And as I’ve said before, in a democracy, sometimes you’re going to win on those issues and sometimes you’re going to lose.

I’m confident about the rightness of my positions on a lot of these points, but we got a new President and a Congress that are going to make their same determinations.  And there will be a back-and-forth in Congress around those issues, and you guys will report on all that.

But there’s difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake.  I put in that category, if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion.  I’d put in that category, explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise.  I’d put in that category, institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press.

And for me, at least, I would put in that category, efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them someplace else when they love this country; they are our kids’ friends and their classmates, and are now entering into community colleges or, in some cases, serving in our military.  The notion that we would just arbitrarily, or because of politics, punish those kids when they didn’t do anything wrong themselves I think would be something that would merit me speaking out.  It doesn’t mean that I would get on the ballot anywhere.

With respect to “wet foot, dry foot,” we underwent a monumental shift in our policy towards Cuba.  My view was, after 50 years of a policy not working, it made sense for us to try to reopen diplomatic relations, to engage a Cuban government, to be honest with them about the strong disagreements we have around political repression and treatment of dissenters and freedom of press and freedom of religion, but that to make progress for the Cuban people, our best shot was to suddenly have the Cuban people interacting with Americans, and seeing the incredible success of the Cuban American community, and engaging in commerce and business and trade, and that it was through that process of opening up these bilateral relations that you would see over time serious and significant improvement.

Given that shift in the relationship, the policy that we had in place was “wet foot, dry foot,” which treated Cuban emigres completely different from folks from El Salvador, or Guatemala, or Nicaragua, or any other part of the world, one that made a distinction between whether you got here by land or by foot — that was a carryover of a old way of thinking that didn’t make sense in this day and age, particularly as we’re opening up travel between the two countries.

And so we had very lengthy consultations with the Department of Homeland Security.  We had some tough negotiations with the Cuban government.  But we arrived at a policy which we think is both fair and appropriate to the changing nature of the relationship between the two countries.

Nadia Bilbassy.

Q    Thank you, sir.  I appreciate the opportunity, and I want you and your family best of luck in the future.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    Mr. President, you have been criticized and even personally attacked for the U.N. Security Council resolution that considered the Israeli settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace.  Mr. Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem.  He appointed an ambassador that doesn’t believe in the two-state solution.  How worried are you about the U.S. leadership in the Arab world and beyond as an honest broker?  Will this ignite a third intifada?  Will this even protect Israel?  And in retrospect, do you think that you should have held Israel more accountable, like President Bush, Senior, did with the loan guarantees?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I continue to be significantly worried about the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  And I’m worried about it both because I think the status quo is unsustainable, that it is dangerous for Israel, that it is bad for Palestinians, it is bad for the region, and it is bad for America’s national security.

And I came into this office wanting to do everything I could to encourage serious peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.  And we invested a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of effort, first year, second year, all the way until last year.  Ultimately, what has always been clear is that we cannot force the parties to arrive at peace.  What we can do is facilitate, provide a platform, encourage.  But we can’t force them to do it.

But in light of shifts in Israeli politics and Palestinian politics; a rightward drift in Israeli politics; a weakening of President Abbas’s ability to move and take risks on behalf of peace in the Palestinian Territories; in light of all the dangers that have emerged in the region and the understandable fears that Israelis may have about the chaos and rise of groups like ISIL and the deterioration of Syria — in light of all those things, what we at least wanted to do, understanding that the two parties wouldn’t actually arrive at a final status agreement, is to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution.  Because we do not see an alternative to it.

And I’ve said this directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I’ve said it inside of Israel.  I’ve said it to Palestinians, as well.  I don’t see how this issues gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy, because if you do not have two states, then in some form or fashion you are extending an occupation, functionally you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second-class occupant — residents.  You can’t even call them citizens, necessarily.

And so the goal of the resolution was to simply say that the settlements — the growth of the settlements are creating a reality on the ground that increasingly will make a two-state solution impossible.  And we believed, consistent with the position that had been taken with previous U.S. administrations for decades now, that it was important for us to send a signal, a wake-up call, that this moment may be passing, and Israeli voters and Palestinians need to understand that this moment may be passing.  And hopefully that, then, creates a debate inside both Israeli and Palestinian communities that won’t result immediately in peace, but at least will lead to a more sober assessment of what the alternatives are.

So the President-elect will have his own policy.  The ambassador — or the candidate for the ambassadorship obviously has very different views than I do.  That is their prerogative. That’s part of what happens after elections.  And I think my views are clear.  We’ll see how their approach plays itself out.

I don’t want to project today what could end up happening, but obviously it’s a volatile environment.  What we’ve seen in the past is, when sudden, unilateral moves are made that speak to some of the core issues and sensitivities of either side, that can be explosive.  And what we’ve tried to do in the transition is just to provide the context in which the President-elect may want to make some of these decisions.

Q    Are you worried that this (inaudible) —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s part of what we’ve tried to indicate to the incoming team in our transition process, is pay attention to this, because this is volatile stuff.  People feel deeply and passionately about this.  And as I’ve said I think many times, the actions that we take have enormous consequences and ramifications.

We’re the biggest kid on the block.  And I think it is right and appropriate for a new President to test old assumptions and reexamine the old ways of doing things.  But if you’re going to make big shifts in policy, just make sure you’ve thought it through, and understand that there are going to be consequences, and actions typically create reactions, and so you want to be intentional about it.  You don’t want to do things off the cuff when it comes to an issue this volatile.

Chris Johnson.

Q    On LGBT rights —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, where is Chris?

Q    I’m right here in the back.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, didn’t see you.

Q    On LGBT rights, we’ve seen a lot of achievements over the past eight years, including signing hate crimes protection legislation, “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, marriage equality nationwide, and ensuring transgender people feel visible and accepted.  How do you think LGBT rights will rank in terms of your accomplishments and your legacy?  And how confident are you that progress will endure or continue under the President-elect?

THE PRESIDENT:  I could not be prouder of the transformation that’s taken place in our society just in the last decade.  And I’ve said before, I think we made some useful contributions to it, but the primary heroes in this stage of our growth as a democracy and a society are all the individual activists, and sons and daughters and couples who courageously said, this is who I am and I’m proud of it.

And that opened people’s minds and opened their hearts.  And, eventually, laws caught up.  But I don’t think any of that would have happened without the activism — in some cases, loud and noisy, but in some cases, just quiet and very personal.

And I think that what we did as an administration was to help the society to move in a better direction, but to do so in a way that didn’t create an enormous backlash, and was systematic and respectful of the fact that, in some cases, these issues were controversial.

I think the way we handled, for example, “don’t ask, don’t tell” — being methodical about it, working with the Joint Chiefs, making sure that we showed this would not have an impact on the effectiveness of the greatest military on Earth — and then to have Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Chairman Mike Mullen and a Joint Chiefs who were open to evidence and ultimately worked with me to do the right thing — I am proud of that.  But, again, none of that would have happened without this incredible transformation that was happening in society out there.

You know, when I gave Ellen the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I meant what I said.  I think somebody that kind and likeable projecting into living rooms around the country — that changed attitudes.  And that wasn’t easy to do for her.  And that’s just one small example of what was happening in countless communities all across the country.

So I’m proud that in certain places we maybe provided a good block downfield to help the movement advance.

I don’t think it is something that will be reversible because American society has changed; the attitudes of young people, in particular, have changed.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be some fights that are important — legal issues, issues surrounding transgender persons — there are still going to be some battles that need to take place.

But if you talk to young people of Malia, Sasha’s generation, even if they’re Republicans, even if they’re conservative, many of them would tell you, I don’t understand how you would discriminate against somebody because of sexual orientation.  That’s just sort of burned into them in pretty powerful ways.

April Ryan.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Long before today you’ve been considered a rights President.  Under your watch, people have said that you have expanded the rubber band of inclusion.  And with the election and the incoming administration, people are saying that rubber band has recoiled and maybe is even broken.  And I’m taking you back to a time on Air Force One going to Selma, Alabama, when you said your job was to close the gaps that remain.  And with that, what gaps still remain when it comes to rights issues on the table?  And also what part will you play in fixing those gaps after — in your new life?

And lastly, you are the first black President.  Do you expect this country to see this again?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ll answer the last question first.  I think we’re going to see people of merit rise up from every race, faith, corner of this country, because that’s America’s strength.  When we have everybody getting a chance and everybody is on the field, we end up being better.

I think I’ve used this analogy before.  We killed it in the Olympics in Brazil.  And Michelle and I, we always have our — the Olympic team here.  And it’s a lot of fun, first of all, just because anytime you’re meeting somebody who is the best at anything, it’s impressive.  And these mostly very young people are all just so healthy-looking, and they just beam and exude fitness and health.  And so we have a great time talking to them.

But they are of all shapes, sizes, colors — the genetic diversity that is on display is remarkable.  And if you look at a Simone Biles, and then you look at a Michael Phelps, they’re completely different.  And it’s precisely because of those differences that we’ve got people here who can excel at any sport.

And, by the way, more than half of our medals came from women.  And the reason is, is because we had the foresight several decades ago, with something called Title 9, to make sure that women got opportunities in sports, which is why our women compete better — because they have more opportunities than folks in other countries.

So I use that as a metaphor.  And if, in fact, we continue to keep opportunity open to everybody, then, yes, we’re going to have a woman President, we’re going to have a Latino President, and we’ll have a Jewish President, a Hindu President.  Who knows who we’re going to have?  I suspect we’ll have a whole bunch of mixed-up Presidents at some point that nobody really knows what to call them.  (Laughter.)  And that’s fine.

But what do I worry about?  I obviously spent a lot of time on this, April, at my farewell address on Tuesday, so I won’t go through the whole list.  I worry about inequality, because I think that if we are not investing in making sure everybody plays a role in this economy, the economy will not grow as fast, and I think it will also lead to further and further separation between us as Americans — not just along racial lines.  There are a whole bunch of folks who voted for the President-elect because they feel forgotten and disenfranchised.  They feel as if they’re being looked down on.  They feel as if their kids aren’t going to have the same opportunities as they did.

And you don’t want to have an America in which a very small sliver of people are doing really well and everybody else is fighting for scraps, as I said last week.  Because that’s oftentimes when racial divisions get magnified, because people think, well, the only way I’m going to get ahead is if I make sure somebody else gets less, somebody who doesn’t look like me or doesn’t worship at the same place I do.  That’s not a good recipe for our democracy.

I worry about, as I said in response to a previous question, making sure that the basic machinery of our democracy works better.  We are the only country in the advanced world that makes it harder to vote rather than easier.  And that dates back — there’s an ugly history to that that we should not be shy about talking about.

Q    Voting rights?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, I’m talking about voting rights.  The reason that we are the only country among advanced democracies that makes it harder to vote is it traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery.  And it became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise.  And that’s not who we are.  That shouldn’t be who we are.  That’s not when America works best.

So I hope that people pay a lot of attention to making sure that everybody has a chance to vote.  Make it easier, not harder.  This whole notion of election — of voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved.  This is fake news — the notion that there are a whole bunch of people out there who are going out there and are not eligible to vote and want to vote.  We have the opposite problem.  We have a whole bunch of people who are eligible to vote who don’t vote.  And so the idea that we’d put in place a whole bunch of barriers to people voting doesn’t make sense.

And then, as I’ve said before, political gerrymandering that makes your vote matter less because politicians have decided you live in a district where everybody votes the same way you do so that these aren’t competitive races, and we get 90 percent Democratic districts, 90 percent Republican districts — that’s bad for our democracy, too.  I worry about that.

I think it is very important for us to make sure that our criminal justice system is fair and just.  But I also think it’s also very important to make sure that it is not politicized, that it maintains an integrity that is outside of partisan politics at every level.

I think at some point we’re going to have to spend — and this will require some action by the Supreme Court — we have to reexamine just the flood of endless money that goes into our politics, which I think is very unhealthy.

So there are a whole bunch of things I worry about there. And as I said in my speech on Tuesday, we got more work to do on race.  It is not — it is simply not true that things have gotten worse.  They haven’t.  Things are getting better.  And I have more confidence on racial issues in the next generation than I do in our generation or the previous generation.  I think kids are smarter about it.  They’re more tolerant.  They are more inclusive by instinct than we are.  And hopefully my presidency maybe helped that along a little bit.

But, you know, we — when we feel stress, when we feel pressure, when we’re just fed information that encourages some of our worst instincts, we tend to fall back into some of the old racial fears and racial divisions and racial stereotypes. And it’s very hard for us to break out of those, and to listen, and to think about people as people, and to imagine being in that person’s shoes.

And by the way, it’s no longer a black and white issue alone.  You got Hispanic folks, and you got Asian folks, and this is not just the same old battles.  We’ve got this stew that’s bubbling up of people from everywhere.  And we’re going to have to make sure that we, in our own lives, in our own families and workplaces, do a better job of treating everybody with basic respect.  And understanding that not everybody starts off in the same situation, and imagining what would it be like if you were born in an inner city and had no job prospects anywhere within a 20-mile radius, or how does it feel being born in some rural county where there’s no job opportunities in a 20-mile radius — and seeing those two things as connected as opposed to separate.

So we got work to do.  But, overall, I think on this front, the trend lines ultimately, I think, will be good.

Christi Parsons.  And Christi, you are going to get the last question.

Q    Oh, no.  (Laughter and groans.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Christi is — I’ve been knowing her since Springfield, Illinois.  When I was a state senator, she listened to what I had to say.  (Laughter.)  So the least I can do is give her the last question as President of the United States.

Go on.

Q    217 numbers still work.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you go.  Go ahead.

Q    Well, thank you, Mr. President.  It has been an honor.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    And I have a personal question for you, because I know how much you like this.  The First Lady puts the stakes of the 2016 election in very personal terms in a speech that resonated across the country, and she really spoke the concerns of a lot of women, LGBT folks, people of color, many others.  And so I wonder now how you and the First Lady are talking to your daughters about the meaning of this election and how you interpret it for yourself and for them.

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, every parent brags on their daughters or their sons.  If your mom and dad don’t brag on you, you know you got problems.  (Laughter.)  But, man, my daughters are something, and they just surprise and enchant and impress me more and more every single day as they grow up.  And so these days, when we talk, we talk as parent to child, but also we learn from them.

And I think it was really interesting to see how Malia and Sasha reacted.  They were disappointed.  They paid attention to what their mom said during the campaign and believed it because it’s consistent with what we’ve tried to teach them in our household, and what I’ve tried to model as a father with their mom, and what we’ve asked them to expect from future boyfriends or spouses.

But what we’ve also tried to teach them is resilience, and we’ve tried to teach them hope, and that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world.  And so you get knocked down, you get up, brush yourself off, and you get back to work.  And that tended to be their attitude.

I think neither of them intend to pursue a future of politics — and, in that, too, I think their mother’s influence shows.  (Laughter.)  But both of them have grown up in an environment where I think they could not help but be patriotic, to love this country deeply, to see that it’s flawed but see that they have responsibilities to fix it.  And that they need to be active citizens, and they have to be in a position to talk to their friends and their teachers and their future coworkers in ways that try to shed some light as opposed to just generate a lot of sound and fury.

And I expect that’s what they’re going to do.  They do not — they don’t mope.  And what I really am proud of them — what makes me proudest about them is that they also don’t get cynical about it.  They have not assumed because their side didn’t win, or because some of the values that they care about don’t seem as if they were vindicated, that automatically America has somehow rejected them or rejected their values.  I don’t think they feel that way.

I think that they have, in part through osmosis, in part through dinnertime conversations, appreciated the fact that this is a big, complicated country, and democracy is messy and it doesn’t always work exactly the way you might want, it doesn’t guarantee certain outcomes.  But if you’re engaged and you’re involved, then there are a lot more good people than bad in this country, and there’s a core decency to this country, and that they got to be a part of lifting that up.

And I expect they will be.  And in that sense, they are representative of this generation that makes me really optimistic.

I’ve been asked — I’ve had some off-the-record conversations with some journalists where they said, okay, you seem like you’re okay, but really, really, what are you thinking?  (Laughter.)  And I’ve said, no, what I’m saying really is what I think.  I believe in this country.  I believe in the American people.  I believe that people are more good than bad.  I believe tragic things happen, I think there’s evil in the world, but I think that at the end of the day, if we work hard, and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time.

That’s what this presidency has tried to be about.  And I see that in the young people I’ve worked with.  I couldn’t be prouder of them.  And so this is not just a matter of “No Drama Obama” — this is what I really believe.  It is true that behind closed doors I curse more than I do publicly.  (Laughter.)  And sometimes I get mad and frustrated, like everybody else does.   But at my core, I think we’re going to be okay.  We just have to fight for it.  We have to work for it, and not take it for granted.  And I know that you will help us do that.

Thank you very much, press corps.  Good luck.

END
3:23 P.M. EST

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 17, 2017: President Barack Obama & Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s Remarks at Final Press Briefing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 1/17/17

Source: WH, 1-17-17

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:15 P.M. EST

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I don’t actually have any announcements at the top, but —

Q    Thank you.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  But because today marks my last briefing, I hope you’ll indulge me a couple of personal thoughts before I go to your questions.

As I prepared to stand here at this podium for the last time, I thought a lot about the first time.  It was 16 years ago this week.  It was January, 2001.  I had just moved to Washington, D.C., and I got on a West Wing tour with a friend of a friend.  We walked through the halls of the West Wing on that tour.  We saw tired White House staffers lugging boxes of their personal belongings out of the building, much the way that people who are on West Wing tours today see.  And on the tour, I smiled for a photo that a friend took of me standing behind this very podium.

I had been in D.C. for a grand total of two weeks.  I had no contacts.  I had no job prospects.  I had no relevant Washington experience.  I was sleeping on the floor of a college buddy’s apartment that had a spare bedroom — and by spare, I don’t just mean it was an extra bedroom; it was an empty bedroom containing only the items that I had managed to load into my car when I moved here from Texas.

So it’s fair to say that there weren’t too many other people on the tour that night who thought I would stand here in front of you as something other than a tourist.  So it’s been an extraordinary journey, and this has been an extraordinary chapter.

This is the 354th White House daily briefing that I have led as the Press Secretary — Mark can check me on that number.  (Laughter.)  Not every briefing started exactly on time.  (Laughter.)  There might have been a briefing or two that went a little longer than you would have preferred.  But you had to admit there was a lot to discuss.  We had plenty of shameless plugs for the Kansas City Royals to squeeze in.  (Laughter.)  There was, of course, the Freedom Caucus’s infamous Tortilla Coast gambit.  There was Congressman Steve Scalise who reportedly compared himself favorably to David Duke.  There was the reintroduction of the word “snafu” into the political lexicon as we were working to pass TPA.

We discussed at length the various ways you can catch Zika, the various ways you can catch Ebola, and the various reasons scientists recommend you vaccinate your kids so that you don’t catch the measles.  Jon Stewart lit me up as I struggled to explain to Jon Karl why a couple of our political ambassadors for some reason had no idea what they were doing.  (Laughter.)  At least the Stewart segment made some of my friends laugh.

President-elect Trump, of course, took advantage of the opportunity to light me up as a “foolish guy” who makes even the good news sound bad.  (Laughter.)  And I have to admit that even that one made me laugh.  (Laughter.)

But it wasn’t always fun and games around here.  There was the time that I tangled with Senator Schumer about DHS funding for New York City, and the time that I tangled with Senator Schumer over the Iran deal — (laughter) — and the time that I tangled with Senator Schumer over the JASTA legislation,  and the time I tangled with Senator Schumer over the wisdom of passing Obamacare, and the time I tangled with Senator Schumer over Trade Promotion Authority legislation.  And to think, we actually spent most of the last two and a half years complaining about how unreasonable Republicans in Congress are.  (Laughter.)

The daily briefing, of course, is the most high-profile part of the press secretary’s job, but it’s not the only part that matters.  The more important part, in many ways, is working with all of you and ensuring the freedom of the press that keeps this democracy vital.

When I first entered this role, I worked closely with the White House Travel Office and the Department of Defense to reform the billing process for your flights on military aircraft, including Air Force One, making those bills more transparent and smaller.  In the last two and a half years, we’ve cajoled governments in China, Ethiopia, and Cuba to host news conferences on their soil, allowing the leaders of those countries and their citizens to see firsthand what it means for independent journalists to hold those in power accountable.

Of course, it was the end-of-the-year news conference that the President convened in this room in 2014 that got as much attention as any other because President Obama called on eight journalists, all women.

And finally, everything about this final week makes me think of all the incredible people whom I’ve been blessed to work with these past eight years.  I only have this opportunity because Robert Gibbs pulled me aside on Election Night 2008 in Chicago as the returns were coming in to tell me that he wanted me to come work with him at the White House.  I’m only here because Jay Carney, Jennifer Palmieri and Dan Pfeiffer supported and encouraged me when I was the deputy, and advocated for me when Jay stepped down.

I’ve also benefitted from a kitchen cabinet of senior White House officials, who’ve got a lot of other important responsibilities that are part of their formal job description, but stepped in to help me out every time I asked for it.  And that’s people like Denis McDonough and Susan Rice and Jennifer Psaki, Liz Allen, Jesse Lee, Cody Keenan, and, of course, Ben Rhodes.  And I’ve only been able to do this job because I have an incredible team around me.

My assistants over the years, Jeff Tiller, Antoinette Rangel, and now Desiree Barnes all patiently supported a guy who, let’s face it, sometimes isn’t so easy to assist.  The White House stenographers — Dominique Dansky Bari, Beck Dorey-Stein, Amy Sands, Mike McCormick, Caitlin Young, and their tireless leader, Peggy Suntum — they work as hard as anybody at the White House and complain about it less than anybody at the White House.  (Applause.)

Applause is appropriate at that point.  (Applause.)  I think the only team that may contend with them might be the research department here at the White House that’s led by Alex Platkin and Kristen Bartoloni.  But I hope you’ll get a chance over the course of the next week to thank the stenographers for their important work, because I know they make your lives a lot easier, too.

The same goes for Peter Velz, Brian Gabriel and Sarah Rutherford, who are stretched as thin, and who are at least as effective as any team of press wranglers we’ve ever had here at the White House.  My colleagues at the NSC, including Ned Price, Emily Horne, Mark Stroh, Carl Woog, and Dew Tiantawach patiently explained to me things that I didn’t know so that I could, in turn, explain them to you.

My team in lower press — Patrick Rodenbush, Katie Hill and Brandi Hoffine — is as talented and as dedicated as any press team in this town.  I begged Brandi to join this team when I first got this job, and her performance has far exceeded the sky-high recommendations I got from people all over town after I interviewed her.  They are all — Katie, Brandi and Patrick — as they say, going places.

Eric Schultz is simply the best deputy that anyone in any field could ask for.  He shows up early, he stays late.  He’s deft — that’s an inside joke.  (Laughter.)  He’s always prepared.  He’s unfailingly loyal.  His judgment is sought after throughout the halls of the White House, not just by me, but by various members of the senior staff and I’m sure will be sought after in his bright post-White House future, too.  Including by me.

When you’re President of the United States and widely regarded as among the most thoughtful and eloquent speakers on the planet, it must be hard to watch someone go on TV and speak for you.  I suspect that’s why, when the President offered me this job, he said he wouldn’t watch my briefings.  (Laughter.) But I know that he saw parts of them on those very rare occasions that he watched cable TV.  And he never second-guessed me.  Not once.  He didn’t just give me the opportunity of a lifetime, he had my back every single day.  And I’m grateful for it.

But there is one person who contributed to my success more than anyone else, and she doesn’t even work at the White House.  My wife, Natalie, was six months pregnant with our first child when I got this job.  She was home with the air-conditioning repairman when the President of the United States called me into the Oval Office to offer me the job.  When I got back to my desk, I saw that I had several missed calls on my cellphone from her.  I quickly called her back.  I told her that I was sorry that I missed her calls, but that I had the best possible excuse for missing them.

Since then she has extended to me more support and understanding than I could ever ask for, even as she was becoming the best mom any two-year-old kid could hope for.  When I missed the mark up here, she didn’t hesitate to tell me about it.  And when I got it right the next day, it was usually because I followed her advice.

So, thank you, sweetheart, for your patience, your loyalty, your counsel, and your love.  Without it, I would not be standing here.  And I will never be able to make it up to you, but I look forward to spending some more time with you and Walker so I can give it a shot.

Serving as the White House Press Secretary under President Obama has been an incredible honor.  I’ve had the opportunity to advocate for his vision of the country, the same vision that deeply resonated with me when I signed up to work for him in Iowa in March 2007.

And while those of us who have been fortunate enough to serve him here will go on to make a difference in new ways, I take heart in knowing that all of you will still be here.  I draw confidence in knowing that you are driven by the same spirit that prompted those young kids that I mentioned at the top of my briefing a couple of weeks ago to move to an Iowa town that they’d never heard of to organize support for the Obama campaign.

You have the same determination as the young people who are moving to Washington, D.C. today, with no job, with no contacts and no prospects, who are hoping to work in the Trump administration.  You’re motivated in the same way as the career civil servants, like the one as the Department of Education, who’s trying to stretch her agency’s budget to ensure as many Hispanic kids as possible can get a decent education.  You have so much in common with these people because each of you and what you do every day is critical to the success of our democracy.

There will be days when you’ll show up to work tired.  I know the same was true of those Obama organizers in Iowa.  There will be days where you will feel disrespected.  And I know many of the young Republican staffers who move to Washington looking for a job will feel that way at times.  It’s hard to pound the pavement in this town when you don’t know anybody.  There will be days where you will wonder if what you’re doing even makes a difference.  And I know that our civil servants sometimes wonder the same thing.

But I assure you, if you — the most talented, experienced, effective press corps in the world — didn’t play your part in our democracy, we would all notice.  Your passion for your work and its centrality to the success of our democracy is a uniquely American feature of our government.  It’s made President Obama a better President and a better public servant.  And it’s because you persevere and you never go easy on us.

So even though it’s my last day, you better not let up now.  So in that spirit, let me say for the last time standing up here — Josh, you want to get us started with questions.

Q    Sure.  Thanks, Josh.  Oh!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not interrupting because he was saying nice things about you guys — (laughter) — because I largely concur.

When I first met Josh Earnest, he was in Iowa.  I think he was wearing jeans.  He looked even younger than he was.  And since my entire campaign depended on communications in Iowa, I gave him a pretty good once-over.  And there are a couple things I learned about him right away.  Number one, he’s just got that all-American, matinee, good-looking thing going.  (Laughter.)  That’s helpful.  Let’s face it — a face made for television.  Then the guy’s name is Josh Earnest — (laughter) — which if somebody is speaking on your behalf is a pretty good name to have.  (Laughter.)

But what struck me most, in addition to his smarts and his maturity and his actual interest in the issues, was his integrity.  There are people you meet who you have a pretty good inkling right off the bat are straight-shooters and were raised to be fundamentally honest and to treat people with respect.  And there are times when that first impression turns out to be wrong, and you’re a little disappointed.  And you see behind the curtain that there’s spin and some hype and posturing going on.  But then there’s others who, the longer you know them, the better you know them, the more time you spend with them, the more you’re tested under tough situations, the more that initial impression is confirmed.

And I have now known this guy for 10 years, almost, and I’ve watched him grow and I’ve watched him advance, and I’ve watched him marry, and I’ve watched him be a father, and I’ve watched him manage younger people coming up behind him.  And he’s never disappointed.  He has always been the guy you wanted him to be.

And I think that if you’re the President of the United States and you find out that this is the guy who has been voted the most popular Press Secretary ever by the White House Press Corps, that may make you a little nervous, thinking well, maybe the guy’s going — being too solicitous towards the press.  But the fact is, is that he was worthy of that admiration.

He was tough, and he didn’t always give you guys everything you wanted.  But he was always prepared.  He was always courteous.  He always tried to make sure he could share with you as much of our thinking and our policy and our vision as possible, and tried to be as responsive as possible.  And that’s how he trained the rest of his team to be.

So, of the folks that I’ve had the great joy and pleasure of working with over the last 10 years on this incredible journey, this guy ranks as high as just about anybody I’ve worked with.  He is not only a great Press Secretary, but more importantly, he is a really, really good man.  And I’m really, really proud of him.

So, Josh, congratulations.  (Applause.)

And, Natalie and Walker, thanks for putting up with all of this — because they’ve made sacrifices, too.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, sir.

Q    Before you go, respond to Vladimir Putin?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to be here (laughter) —

 

Q    Where are you going on Friday?  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that was awfully generous.  So the President will be back tomorrow.  He’ll be standing here and he’ll be answering your questions.  Today you’re going to settle for me.

So, Josh, you want to get us started?

Q    Sure.  Thanks, Josh, and I want to thank you and your team for your hard work and service in your roles.  We’ve all tussled aggressively with you over the last many years, but that was as it should be, and you all have continued to always engage with us and we appreciate that.

Following up on the question that was just asked, have the Obamas decided where they will be heading when they board the Presidential aircraft for the final time on Friday?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  Josh, I can tell you that the First Family is looking forward to flying to Palms Spring, California on Friday.  The President vowed to take his family to a destination that is warmer than Washington, D.C. on Friday, and Palm Springs fits the bill.  This is a community that the President has visited on a number of occasions as President of the United States.  He and his family have enjoyed the time they have spent there in the past and they’re looking forward to traveling there on Friday.

Q    And President Putin today was accusing the Obama administration of spreading false information about the President-elect in an attempt to delegitimize his presidency and said that those in this administration who did that were worse than prostitutes.  Does the Obama administration have any comment on that?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s an interesting metaphor that he chose there.  Listen, as I’ve said on a number of occasions, the men and women of the United States intelligence community are patriots.  They are experts in their field.  They do their work not because of the glory associated with it — because most of the time they have to keep their names secret.  They don’t do it for the big pay — because in many situations they could make a whole lot more money in the private sector.  They do their important work to keep our country safe because they love this country, and they have served us incredibly well in keeping us safe.

They have served President Obama enormously well.  And this is not the first time that the intelligence community has had some uncomfortable things to say about Russia.  These are the kinds of the things that I’m sure the Russians would rather not hear.  But ultimately — and this is something that the next administration is going to have to decide — there’s a pretty stark divide here.

On one side, you’ve got the men and women of the United States intelligence community.  You’ve got Democrats in Congress — you’ve got Republicans in Congress — who are concerned, deeply, about the way that the Russian apparatus sought to call into question the legitimacy and stability of our democracy.  On the other side, you’ve got Wikileaks and the Russians.  And the incoming administration is going to have to decide which side they’re going to come down on.  And it will be among the very interesting things that all of you will be closely watching in the next week.

Q    I was wondering as you were reflecting over the last eight years whether you can identify the greatest achievement that you felt you were able to accomplish, and also the biggest regret that you have as you’re leaving this part of your life.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think there are two things that come to mind.  The first is that, over the course of the eight years that I’ve worked here in the White House, the President’s communication team walked in this building at a time of dramatic change in the media environment, in the news business, thanks largely to advancements in technology, and updating and modernizing and capitalizing on those new opportunities was an important part of President Obama’s success in the White House.

I cite this example because I think it’s a good one as you all consider the relationship that you’re going to build with the incoming administration.  It’s a good example because some of the things that we’ve heard from the incoming administration has raised some concerns, at least based on what I’ve read publically.

Some of the things that we tried to do — capitalizing on new technology, breaking news on Twitter, having the President film videos that we released on Facebook, having the President engage in conversations that were released to the public with people who aren’t journalists but people who have a strong following nonetheless, whether that’s somebody like Marc Maron or any of the YouTube personalities that President Obama has an opportunity to visit with.  Bear Grylls would fit in this category — all of that was disconcerting to people in this room and was the source of some friction between our operations.  But those changes were beneficial to the American people, and to this President, and to this White House.  Because in a changing environment, we need to capitalize on every available opportunity to make sure that the President’s voice and his message is heard, and those were good opportunities to do that.

So my hope is that, as you all navigate this new relationship, that you’ll protect the things that are worth protecting — protecting this daily briefing, and the regular exchange that senior officials have at the White House with all of you to answer tough questions, to be held accountable, to respond for calls for greater transparency.

It’s uncomfortable to be in a position of authority, certainly a position of responsibility, and to be subjected to those kinds of questions.  That’s true even when you’re doing the right thing for the right reasons.  But it’s a necessary part of our democracy.  And so my hope is that the essence of this relationship between the White House Press Corps and the White House Press Office will be preserved and it will be maintained for future generations to benefit from.

But there also was a good reason not just to — there’s also a good reason to not just raise objections because proposed changes depart from the way we’ve been doing things for a long time.  The fact that we’ve been doing something the same way for a long time is not, in and of itself, a good reason to keep doing things the same way.

So this is going to require a lot of hard work, probably going to require building some trust.  But I’m optimistic that the White House Press Corps and the White House Press Office can continue to adapt to the modern environment even as some of the basics and this important principle continues to be protected.  And I feel like we’ve navigated that pretty well, and that certainly was an important part of my responsibilities here, both in my first five and half years as the Deputy White House Press Secretary and certainly in the last two-and-a-half as the Press Secretary.

And with regard to things that I could have done better, you can probably point to an exchange in every briefing transcript and find a place where I could have said it more cleanly or more effectively or more clearly, so I’m sure there are many of them.

The one example that always comes to mind when I’m asked about this is in early September, the first week in September of 2015, we were in the midst of negotiating — or working with Congress to protect the Iran deal.  You’ll recall that there was an opportunity for Congress to vote to pass a resolution of disapproval of the agreement, and we were working hard to build a veto-proof minority in Congress to protect the President’s veto of that resolution of disapproval.  And quickly, our attention turned to actually building a substantial support in the Senate to allow that agreement to survive a filibuster.

And I inadvertently announced Senator Warner’s support for the Iran deal before he has announced it.  So our leg staff wasn’t too happy with me.  Senator Warner wasn’t too happy with me.  But when I called Senator Warner shortly after the briefing to apologize, I explained to him that it was an honest mistake, and I avoided, with one exception, doing briefings after a red-eye flight, which I suspect contributed to that error back in September of 2015.

But the one thing that I do feel good about, and the thing that I’m proud of, and this is a lot — a lot of credit goes to some of the people that I mentioned at the beginning — I always felt well-prepared when I was standing up here, and I always felt prepared to tell the truth and to give you as clear a sense as possible the President’s thinking on a particular issue.  And in some ways, that’s the most important mandate of the person that’s standing up here.  And I’m proud of the way that we fulfilled that.

Q    Thanks, Josh.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Jeff.

Q    Josh, first of all, on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, we want to thank you for your commitment to regular briefings with us.  We haven’t always agreed on everything, and there has always been some tension, which is normal between a White House and the press corps that covers it, but we are grateful to you and your team for working with the Correspondents Association and for your commitment to dealing with us on a daily basis.  So, thank you.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    That hat off, I would ask you a question today about Iran.

MR. EARNEST:  Okay.

Q    The Iranian President said today that President-elect Trump cannot unilaterally cancel the nuclear deal and has said it was meaningless what the President-elect has said about that.  Has the Obama administration offered any assurances to the Iranian government about that?  And, logistically, is it true, or is it not true, that President-elect Trump could, in fact, nullify the deal?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there are not any — you’ve heard the President say this on a number of occasions — there are not any assurances that this administration has made to foreign leaders about what the incoming administration would do.  The incoming President will determine what he believes is the best course for the country, and he’ll make that decision accordingly.

With regard to the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, this is not just an agreement between the United States and Iran.  This is an agreement between Iran and some of our closest allies, and some countries with whom we don’t regularly get along on every issue but serve on the United Nations Security Council, and all of those other countries are committed to this agreement because it does prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

You’ll recall that this was one of the foremost foreign policy challenges facing this President when he took office.  The world was deeply concerned about the rapid progress that Iran was making toward building a nuclear bomb.  And that progress was halted and rolled back because of the tough, principled diplomacy that we initiated and implemented over years to reach this point.

And, in fact, just yesterday, the General Director of the IAEA, Mr. Amano, issued a statement, and I’m just going to read a couple sentences.  “Iran has removed excess centrifuges and infrastructure from the Fordow fuel enrichment plant, in line with its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”  That’s the international agreement.

The JCPOA required Iran, within one year from implementation day, to complete the removal of all excess centrifuges and infrastructure from the Fordow fuel enrichment plant and to transfer them to storage at the Natanz fuel enrichment plant, under continuous Agency monitoring.  That’s a remarkable step.  You will recall the dramatic moment in September of 2009 when President Obama, with other world leaders, announced to the world this secret nuclear facility that Iran had constructed and was using to advance toward a nuclear weapon.

So this is an agreement that’s worked.  It’s an agreement that’s going to require conscientious implementation; it’s going to require continued diplomacy.  We’re going to need to work with the rest of the international community to make sure that Iran is adhering to the commitments that they’ve made.  But after doing that for a year, we’ve gotten proof of concept.  This has worked.

And as the incoming President considers the best path forward, we’re hopeful, and even optimistic, that he’ll consider the success of the last year as he designs a policy for the years ahead.

Q    The President has made a slew of appointments this week in his last few days in office to places like the Kennedy Center Honors — the Kennedy Center Board, and others.  Why is this happening now?  And do you have any ethical concerns about doing this sort of on the way out?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t.  I think the list of people that the President has put forward for these important positions speaks for themselves.  These are outstanding members of the community, some of whom have served this President and this White House, and have done so with extraordinary distinction.  And these are new and different ways for them to serve that appeal to their own personal interests.  So I think this is — I know this is entirely consistent with what previous Presidents have done.  This is entirely consistent with the executive authority that’s vested in the White House.  And President Obama is executing that authority consistent with the best interests of the American people.

Q    Lastly, do you have any reaction to British Prime Minister May’s announcement today that Britain will exit the single market when it leaves the European Union?

MR. EARNEST:  Jeff, what we’ve been saying from the beginning is that the United States was going to be encouraging both the leaders of the EU and the leaders in the UK to work effectively together to design a relationship among these critically important American allies.  And we’ve urged them to engage in that process in a way that is as transparent as possible to prevent any sort of economic disruptions from misunderstandings or from surprises.  And both sides have worked to do that.

But ultimately, it’s going to be up to them to design a relationship that is supported by their constituents.  That certainly is going to make these kinds of conversations more complicated.  But this reflects the will of the people as the British people voted in a referendum last summer.  And there’s a lot of hard work that their elected representatives need to do to design a relationship with the EU that serves them best.  And it’s firmly in the interest of the United States for them to do that effectively, and we certainly have supported them as they’ve done that over the last several months, and I anticipate the incoming administration will do the same.

Olivier.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  Just two for you.  Piggybacking on Jeff’s question, one of the posts you guys announced is an ambassadorial nominee to the Republic of Congo.  I can’t imagine you think that is going to get confirmed.  What’s the rationale behind that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Olivier, I think it’s a couple of things.  The first is, you never know.  Second is — so you’re saying there’s a chance?  (Laughter.)  That’s a fun movie.  I probably should have spent more time quoting from “Dumb and Dumber.”  (Laughter.)  I guess that would have been a regret of my two-and-a-half-year tenure here.

I think the other thing, in some cases, this is also sending a clear signal to Congress about who are people who are qualified for these jobs.  And so this can send a clear signal both in terms of their career trajectory, even if they’re not confirmed for these positions, but that the President has got a lot of confidence in their ability to handle significant responsibilities.  And so even if they are not confirmed for the position that they’ve been nominated for, there may be future opportunities in a similar area where they could continue to serve the United States.

But we’ve obviously talked a lot about how there are many deserving, worthy, talented Americans who have been put forward by this administration and who have been treated in breathtakingly unfair ways by Republicans in Congress.  And that is a source of deep disappointment that we continue to feel even in our last days in office here.

Q    And the second one — on this President’s watch, North Korea has moved ahead with its missile program and its nuclear program.  Does that weigh on the President’s mind?  Has he discussed it with the President-elect?

MR. EARNEST:  I have refrained from getting into the content of the conversations between the two men.  What I can say is I know that the President’s National Security Council and his national security team has been engaged with the incoming President’s team on a range of issues, including on North Korea.  So I am confident that this challenge is on the radar screen of the incoming President and his team.

With regard to President Obama’s work in this area, we have not made as much progress as we would have liked in halting North Korea’s nuclear activities that are in violation of a range of international agreements.  What we have succeeded in doing, however, is building a rock-solid international consensus, including with countries like Russia and China, about the need to apply further pressure to North Korea to refrain from those kinds of destabilizing, provocative actions.  And that’s an important step and will serve the incoming administration well as they work on this challenge.

What President Obama has also done is work closely with the civilian and uniformed leadership at the Department of Defense to ensure that our defense posture in the Asia Pacific is able to protect the American people from this threat.  So that has involved the deployment of additional ships with anti-ballistic missile capabilities.  It has involved the construction of sensitive and sophisticated radar that can be used in conjunction with those systems to protect the American people.  And we’ve worked closely with allies like Japan and South Korea to construct those defenses.

So the American people, because of the decisions that have been made by the Commander-in-Chief, are safe from North Korea’s current capabilities.  But we continue to be concerned about their actions, and we’re going to need to work effectively with the international community to address that situation.

Paul.

Q    Josh, thanks for your efforts these last few years, first of all —

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    This is sort of a history question.  When historians look at Presidents, they often cite, well, they did X, Y and Z.  But it’s also fair to look at perhaps mistakes, quagmires that Presidents avoided getting into.  What did the President sort of avoid, in your judgment, that might have done a lot of harm?

MR. EARNEST:  Look, well, certainly, as you know, with regard to our efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, the President has been mindful of the recent lessons of U.S. military entanglements in the Middle East.  And the President does not believe that our interests were advanced by the strategy that was employed by the previous administration, and, in fact, he ran for this job in part on his opposition to some of the strategies that had been put in place before.

And the President does believe that the strategy that we’ve put in place against ISIL is working.  We’ve made important progress in rolling back more than half the territory that ISIL previously controlled in Iraq.  We’ve rolled back a substantial quantity of territory that they previously controlled in Syria.  And we did that without a large-scale offensive ground combat operation involving American troops on the ground.

What we have done is we have — the President has dispatched a much smaller number of U.S. forces, some of whom are in a very — working in a very dangerous situation, to offer advice and assistance to local forces and regional forces that are fighting for their own region, and fighting for their own country.

And that is a strategy that the President believes is much more likely to lead to long-term success.  It’s going to build the capacity of these local forces to police their own country and secure their own country.

Those forces are, of course, augmented by U.S. forces with a range of capabilities — whether that’s U.S. military pilots who can take strikes on ISIL targets or other extremist targets in that region of the world.  There are U.S. forces with remarkable capabilities that can carry out raids against high-value targets and can capitalize on troves of intelligence that they may be able to acquire.  And it also involves U.S. trainers who are building up the capacity of those forces — other forces, local forces — and then supporting them, advising them, and assisting them on the battlefield.

So that’s the strategy that President Obama has put in place.  He believes that has served the country well, both because of how it has been effective in taking the fight to ISIL, and because of the likely long-term success that the President believes that we are on track to enjoy.  And all that was done without the kind of large-scale ground combat operation that characterized previous entanglements in the Middle East.

Q    So the footnotes answer is you avoid a foreign quagmire, is what you’re saying.

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, I think that’s true — even as we engage in a robust defense of the American people.  That’s what has to come first.  And, in fact, the President believes that our national security does benefit from a strategy that avoids quagmires, but does apply intense pressure to those extremist organizations that would do us harm.  That’s the crux of the strategy, and it’s worked.

Q    The second question is, if you look at, say, Gallup polling for every President from Truman up to your boss, he is leaving with actually the fourth highest approval of all of them.  John F. Kennedy is exempted.  Clinton, then Reagan, then Eisenhower with 59 — and then your boss.  And he’s ahead of everybody else.  How does that — does that strike you as about — how do you react to that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that obviously I think is — I know that President Obama is proud of that and I think it is an indication of — certainly of the success that we’ve had in just the last couple of years.

Q    I mean, his critics say, well, he doesn’t deserve that.  Others say — you know how it is.  People say it’s —

MR. EARNEST:  Look, there will be people on both sides who will do their own analysis of the polls.  Look, it’s not just the Gallup Poll that indicates the uniquely high standing that’s enjoyed by the President right now.  So we’re obviously proud of that.  I do think it’s a testament to a lot of work that we’ve done here over the last 12 to 18 months.  But it’s also a reflection of the kind of early investments that President Obama made in the first couple of years of his presidency that have taken root and are now flowering — at the risk of torturing that analogy.

There are remarkable benefits that — just one example. President Obama, in his first couple of months in office, made a politically unpopular decision to rescue the American auto industry.  That was a decision — a policy decision that did not poll well in the state of Michigan, a state that had more to benefit from that rescue than any other state in the country when it comes to their economy.  But since the President made that important decision, the manufacturing sector has created 800,000 jobs.  And the American auto industry is manufacturing and selling as many cars as they ever have.

So that’s I think a good example of how a tough decision that the President made early on was not one that was going to show immediate benefits, butb looking back, eight years later, it was clearly the right decision.  And the fact that it wasn’t politically popular at the time, I think only gives people more confidence that the President was making the right decisions for the right reasons.

Michelle.

Q    Josh, we’ve heard one member of Congress call Donald Trump not a legitimate President.  Now the number of Democrats who aren’t attending the inauguration is up over 40, and they’re sort of framing this as a boycott.  What do you think of those words and actions?  And is this just contributing to the division right now?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t think it’s contributing to the division, but I do think it’s a reflection of the division in the country right now.

To be clear about the President’s point of view, since the day after the election, some eight hours after the final results were called, President Obama spoke in the Rose Garden and he spoke forcefully, with conviction, about the determination that he and his team would show in trying to facilitate a smooth and effective transition with the incoming team.  And we’ve lived up to that promise that the President made on November 9th.  And in many ways, I think actions speak louder than words, particularly with regard to the way this administration has worked closely with the incoming administration to ensure — or at least give them the best opportunity at a running start.

But all of that was rooted in the institutional responsibilities that the President and his team have to serve the American people, is to make sure that the person that they’ve elected President of the United States has an opportunity to succeed and hit the ground running.  And we have been challenged to do that in spite of our in some cases profound concerns with some of the rhetoric and policy positions that are being articulated by the other side.

So I think most of this, Michelle, is just a function of the different roles.  Members of Congress have a different responsibility.  They are freer to express their opinion in a way that they chose.  They don’t have the same kind of institutional responsibility that the administration has.  And I’m proud of the fact that we’ve fulfilled it.

Q    You’re saying that the administration would say similar things and do similar things if they could?

MR. EARNEST:  I wouldn’t speculate on what people around here would say.  I think I’m just pointing to what we have done.  And that’s a reflection of keeping the President’s promise.

Q    You’ve spoken a lot about the efforts, like the strong efforts that the administration has put out for this smooth transition.  So do you think that these — do you think it’s important what these — some of these Democrats are saying and doing?  Do you think it’s important for that to be said at this point?  Or do you think that what they’re doing is just sort of harming the smooth transition?

MR. EARNEST:  Look, I don’t think that what they’re doing is harming the smooth transition, primarily because when we’re talking about a smooth transition, we’re talking about making sure that the incoming administration is aware of what we’ve been doing over the last eight years and of the looming decisions that they’ll have to make when they enter office.  We want to make sure that they can benefit from all of the lessons that we’ve learned over the last eight years about building and running an effective team that’s in charge of the federal government.

Those are the kinds of things that are critical to a smooth and effective transition, and I don’t think that there’s anything that members of Congress have said that’s going to derail that effort.

Q    Okay.  And there’s been plenty that has been said about certain posts that will possibly be open for a long time, certain structures just not seeming ready at all.  I mean, we hear things on our end about concerns within the administration as to the next administration’s readiness.  So you’ve had a unique look at that smooth transition that you mentioned.  Do you think that there’s readiness there?  I mean, do you feel confident that the next administration is ready to pick up the reins?

MR. EARNEST:  I certainly am not in a position to be able to assess across the board what the level of readiness is of the incoming team.  I’ll let them describe what efforts they have taken to ensure that they’re ready to assume this awesome responsibility.  And we certainly have tried to be there at every turn as they’re making those decisions to support them and to give them the best possible information so that they can make the best possible decision.  But when it comes to assessing where things stand, I’ll leave that to the incoming team.

Q    And do you feel like this is the last briefing of this kind that we might see for a very long time?

MR. EARNEST:  I hope not, but I don’t know.  I’ll let the incoming team speak to that.

Justin.

Q    The President-elect said on Friday that U.S. companies can’t compete because our currency was too strong and that that was “killing us.”  I’m wondering if that’s a concern that the White House shares.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we have, over the last eight years, abided by the longstanding tradition of allowing the United States Secretary of the Treasury to speak about the value of the dollar.  Of course, those policy decisions when it relates to currency are made by the Federal Reserve, so that’s not something I’ve spoken on at great length here.

I did happen to see the President-elect’s comments.  I believe there is one factual point that is worth referencing, which is that we have seen with regard to China’s currency that it is appreciating in value over the last 18 months.  That’s just a fact.  With regard to what sort of policy they’ve implemented to do that or what their aim may be, I’d refer you to the Chinese.  I wouldn’t speculate on that.  But just as a factual matter, the Chinese currency has appreciated over the last year to 18 months.

Q    Are you concerned that an aide to the President-elect reportedly was in discussions about joint investments — (inaudible)

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I haven’t seen those specific reports.  I think what I can say is that given the intelligence community’s conclusion about the efforts of the Russians to intervene in our democracy, questions about the ties between senior government officials and the Russian government are worthy of careful examination.

And that will obviously be the responsibility of Congress, and it may end up being the responsibility of some law enforcement officials if they choose to initiate those kinds of investigations.  If they choose to do that, that would be a decision that they would make entirely on their own based on their own discretion and not something that this administration would try to influence even in our last few days here.

But there are structures in place where people have the authority that they need to conduct those kinds of investigations.  And with regard to Congress, they’ll face a decision about whether or not they choose to exercise that authority.  And with regard to law enforcement officials, they’ll have to decide on their own if this is worthy of an inquiry.

Q    Last one.  Your friend, Senator Schumer — (laughter)  — suggested —

MR. EARNEST:  I’m really hoping that he accepted that opening in the spirit in which it was offered.  We’ll see, I guess.  (Laughter.)

Q    — suggested today that Representative Price might have broken the law on this stock transaction of a medical device — and he later introduced legislation that could have governed.  Acknowledging what you said before that the President-elect should have some flexibility to pick his own team, do you find this report to be disqualifying for the President-elect’s choice as head of HHS?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think this report is indicative of a couple of things.  The first is, given the incoming administration’s priority that is placed on draining the swamp, I think they have the unique obligation to explain exactly what happened.  Because the facts of the report don’t appear to be that complicated — you have a member of Congress buying a stock in a company, and within a week sponsoring legislation that would benefit that company and its stock price, only to see the introduction of that legislation followed shortly thereafter by a political donation from that company to the campaign account of the member of Congress in question.

So this doesn’t seem like a complicated scheme.  It seems like exactly the kind of financial entanglement that’s left a lot of people feeling alienated from Washington, D.C., that’s left a lot of people questioning the motives of members of Congress.  Was he sponsoring that legislation because of his own personal motive — personal financial interest?  Was he sponsoring that legislation because he knew it was likely to lead to a political contribution?  Or was he sponsoring that bill because he thought it was good policy?  It’s hard to know.  It’s an open question.

So this is why Congress has a responsibility to offer advice and consent for the President’s Cabinet nominations.  And I suspect this is going to be an issue that’s going to receive careful scrutiny — hopefully not just on the part of Democrats, but also on the part of Republicans who are interested in making sure that the incoming President’s Cabinet nominees are looking to do the job for the right reasons.

Jon.

Q    So are you suggesting he may have broken the law?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m saying that I don’t know whether or not

— I certainly can’t make a statement that definitive.  If law enforcement officials choose to investigate the situation, that’s something that they will do based on their own knowledge of the law and based on their own discretion.  I think I’m just commenting on the fact that reports do raise a lot of questions. And again, this isn’t some sort of complicated financial scheme. We don’t need to have Michael Lewis explain it to us in a 300-page book.  This one seems pretty concerning just based on a couple paragraphs of a news report from CNN.

Q    Okay.  I’ve got a couple questions.  First, I just want to say thank you, Josh, for being accessible during your time here as Press Secretary and Deputy Press Secretary, and thank you for working as hard as you have to answer our questions, including, but not exclusively, those questions that you didn’t like.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  There were more than a few of those.  (Laughter.)  Thank you for your kind words, Jon.  I appreciate it.

Q    Back to the question Josh asked about Vladimir Putin, putting aside the intelligence community.  Putin made a specific allegation, pretty explosive one, coming from another global leader.  He’s accusing the Obama administration of trying to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration.  What’s your response to Vladimir Putin?

MR. EARNEST:  First of all, it sounds like he got his copy of the talking points.  Second —

Q    From whom?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t know.  But it certainly sounds a lot like what the incoming administration’s team is saying.  But it is not the first time that the Russian President has called into question the veracity of the United States government.  Right?

This is a Russian government that recently said that they were focused entirely on ISIL inside of Syria, and raising questions about what the United States and our allies were doing to fight those extremists.  That wasn’t true.  In fact, what we know is that the one place that Russia can point to where they’ve made progress against ISIL is in Palmyra; ISIL has since taken it back and is now using some of the equipment that the Syrian regime, with the support of the Russians, moved to Palmyra.  And that’s going to put the United States and our coalition partners who are going after ISIL at even greater risk.

So it’s not the first time that the President of Russia has said things about the U.S. government that just don’t withstand any scrutiny.

Q    So it’s not true?

MR. EARNEST:  Of course, it’s not true.  And the suggestion — the reason that I answered Josh’s question the way that I did was that the suggestion all along — and this is a suggestion that was repeated just yesterday by the President-elect — was raising doubts about the integrity and intentions of the men and women of the intelligence community.  And that is deeply misguided, as I’ve said before.

And particularly to call into question the integrity of somebody like John Brennan, somebody who has served at the CIA for three decades, somebody who served this country in dangerous locations around the world to try to keep us safe — I’m offended by it.

Q    Josh, on the question of the next administration and its communication strategy, looking back, was there ever any consideration by anybody in this White House of shutting this briefing room down, of taking reporters and moving them out of the West Wing?

MR. EARNEST:  No, there was not.

Q    What would it say, symbolically and practically — what message would it send to the country if this briefing room, if this workspace were shut down and reporters were banished to another part of the White House grounds?

MR. EARNEST:  I lead this in my long comments at the beginning about how the United States has a rather unique arrangement between our government and the independent media.  The fact that all of you represent independent news organizations and have regular access to the White House, have regular access to workspace where you can do your job, have a venue where you can enter the room — the Briefing Room — at almost any hour, and can hold people in power accountable is really important.

You also have access to senior White House officials right through that door.  Right up the ramp outside that door, you can come into my office at a moment’s notice to ask question and demand answers and demand transparency.  And as I mentioned earlier, sometimes that’s a little inconvenient; sometimes it’s uncomfortable; sometimes it’s frustrating because you’re dissatisfied with the answer that was given, but it’s necessary for the success of our democracy.

And I think there are some people who might say, Jon, that, well, this is — it’s just symbolic that you have the White House Press Corps in the White House.  And I would say it’s a really important symbol.  It’s more than just symbolism.  But even taking that argument at face value, there is something symbolically important about all of you gathering here every single day to hold people in power accountable, to demand answers, to demand transparency, to demand facts.  And your ability to do that is going to be affected if you don’t have regular access to the White House, if you’re not able to do your job from the White House, and if there’s not a natural, readily available venue for you to hold senior officials accountable.

So this is, again, a relationship that President Obama believed was important to invest in.  He made this a priority, and it doesn’t mean because he liked all your coverage.

Q    He could have had more press conferences —

MR. EARNEST:  He probably could have.  And again, I think this is exactly a good illustration — you should be asking for more, and you should say that we appreciate President Obama’s investment, but there is more that he could have done.  That’s the nature of this relationship.  And it means that you’re doing your job, but it also means the President of the United States is doing his job.  And I don’t know if the incoming administration is going to see it that way, but I hope they do.

April.

Q    Josh, one of your, I guess, mentees — mentors, Mike McCurry said the press had a friendly, adversarial relationship with the White House.  And with that, understanding your very interesting position between the press and the President, have you taken any kind of advocacy role positives about what you just said to Sean Spicer, the incoming press secretary, or has anyone in this administration talked to the incoming administration about exactly what you just said?

MR. EARNEST:  What I can tell you is, as you know, my colleague, Jen Psaki and I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Spicer in what will soon be his new office a couple of weeks ago.  And we had a nice conversation.  And we talked about everything from the rather peculiar logistics of getting things done around the White House, but also the work to prepare for the briefing and to ensure that government agencies are coordinated in their messaging efforts with the White House.  It was a good conversation.  But one of the pieces of advice that I had for him was to engage with the White House Correspondents Association.

I remember vividly when we started here.  I was the deputy press secretary during President Obama’s earliest days in office.  And we worked very closely at the time with Jennifer Loven, who was an AP correspondent and then was president of the White House’s Correspondents Association.  And she did an excellent job of helping to educate us about what your expectations were and she helped us avoid inadvertent conflicts.  There are certainly situations where we might be tempted to do something that we didn’t think was that big of a deal that you all would view with deep suspicion as an effort to make your job harder.

And so what I encouraged Sean to do is to engage with the gentlemen that all of you have elected to represent you as the President of the White House Correspondents Association.  So Jeff is somebody who knows this place well, and Jeff is somebody who can be an honest broker.  And so he’s got a — Jeff and I actually had this conversation before the election about how valuable our relationship with Jennifer Loven was in 2009, and how his relationship with the incoming administration — whether it was the Clinton administration or the Trump administration — was going to be critically important.

And, look, Jeff knows his stuff and he’s got exactly the right temperament for managing these kinds of things.  And I do think that if Jeff, as your elected representative, and Sean, as the person designated as the top spokesperson in the government by the President-elect, can work effectively together, that I think a lot of the concerns that have been expressed in the last couple of weeks can certainly be managed.

And it doesn’t mean that everything he does is going to be satisfying to you; it shouldn’t be that way.  But I am optimistic that because of Sean’s genuine desire to represent his boss well and Jeff’s leadership in representing all of your interests, that these difficult things can get worked out.

Q    Did you specifically say we should stay in this building, stay here?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not going to get into a detailed readout of our conversation.  So I’m going to defer to him and let him announce what they choose to do.

Q    I have a couple of other questions really fast.  Being here all these years and being with the President since Iowa, meeting him since Iowa, what is the biggest takeaway as people are trying to rewrite his history now and trying to look at his legacy when you’re supposed to look, like, 10 years out?  What’s the biggest takeaway that we should know about this administration, and particularly this President?

MR. EARNEST:  I alluded to this at the top, too.  In 2007, when I first heard President Obama speak as a candidate for President of the United States, I actually wasn’t working for him.  I moved to Iowa in December of 2006 to work on Tom Vilsack’s presidential campaign.  And so I joined President Obama’s team, then-Senator Obama’s team, only a month or so after Governor Vilsack dropped out of the race.

And the reason that I was drawn to Senator Obama’s campaign was simply that he was giving voice to a vision of the country that deeply resonated with me.  He was articulating a vision for America that was inclusive, where everybody got a fair shot and a fair shake, and where we tried to transcend a politics that seemed too small, that it was not well-equipped to take on the difficult challenges that our country faced.  And he was willing to articulate that vision and those set of values, and defend them forcefully.

There was a sense among many Democrats, particularly throughout much of the Bush administration, that Democrats were a little on the back foot in trying to make our argument.  And to see this young and young-looking man, a newcomer on the scene, step up to the stage and almost defiantly articulate a vision of the country where everybody has got a shot, regardless of what you look like or where you come from, that there’s a whole lot more that unites us than drives us apart in this country because of our commitment to some of the basic founding principles of our country — that resonated with me.

And so to answer your question, my takeaway is that for all that we’ve been through, for all that we’ve seen over the last decade, President Obama is as optimistic about the country and as committed to that vision as he has ever been.  And he is as resolute in advocating for and defending those values as he’s ever been.  And I find that genuinely inspiring, at the risk of laying it on a little thick.  I genuinely do.

On those days when I thought it was — when I was tired, knowing that I was going to have to get up early in the morning and prepare to come and speak to all of you, I drew a lot of inspiration from knowing what a unique opportunity it was for me to have the opportunity to stand up here and to give voice to those values that I deeply believe in, and to know that my boss would support me in making that argument forcefully, without reservation, with deep conviction.

It’s been an honor to do that.  But mostly I admire and respect the President’s fidelity to those values even through all the twists and turns of the last 10 years.

Q    And lastly, you talk about laying it on thick.  I guess I want to say thank you for making sure that issues that were not necessarily the mainstream issues — urban America, LGBT community, all sorts of communities out there that were not necessarily at the top of the fold or on the A block of the news — for making sure we have answers for that.  How important is that for this White House to make sure those issues were addressed as well as the overarching issues of the day from the first two rows?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, this is actually a principle that the incoming administration has given some voice to — that I know that Mr. Spicer has indicated a desire to be as inclusive as possible and to give as many different kinds of journalists and outlets and commentators the opportunity to participate in this session.  I think that’s a really good thing.  That’s exactly what we have done.  There’s never been a time that we’ve turned anybody away from participating in this briefing.  People who show up here on a regular basis with their hand in the air, regardless of which row they sit in — they get called on.  Not every day — (laughter.)  In part because it’s not unusual for me to get complaints about the length of the briefing.  But it’s fair to say that people who show up here regularly get called on regularly.

That’s a good thing.  And if that’s something that Mr. Spicer is committed to, and he wants to bring even more people into that process, people from the left and the right, we’ve certainly succeeded in doing that, and I hope he does, too.

Anita.

Q    Thank you.  A couple questions about Friday.  So I know a few of the — several — three former Presidents are going to be in town, and Secretary Clinton, obviously.  Is there any opportunity for the President to visit with the former Presidents there or at the Capitol or at the White House, or does that not happen?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any sort of formal get-together that the President will have with the former Presidents.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an opportunity when they’re at the Capitol for the President to see them, but it would just be pretty informal.  And we’ll do our best to keep you posted about how that shakes out.

Q    — in my colleague’s profile of you, which came out today, that your last day is actually Thursday.  Does that mean most staff — I know some people, it’s staggered that people are leaving, but does most of the staff leave on Thursday if they don’t — aren’t involved in the actual —

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  The vast majority of the White House staff will have their last day here at the White House on Thursday.  There is a small number of people that will continue to work through noon on Friday for the actual transition.

But it’s a pretty remarkable exercise that we’re undergoing here at the White House, and I give a lot of credit to my colleagues at the GSA and other people who are responsible for ensuring that I have an opportunity to work from my desk until 4 or 5 o’clock at night in the evening on Thursday, and they’re going to have that office up and running and prepared for Sean to sit down behind that desk at noon the next day.  So that’s no small undertaking, but it certainly requires that many of us get out of the way on Thursday afternoon so they can do their important work.

Q    You mentioned the President was going to California after the inauguration — or the family is going.  When they return — so they fly aboard the presidential aircraft, which we don’t call Air Force One then.  Does it wait for them, or are they on their own after that — they can take commercial back?

MR. EARNEST:  They’re on their own after that.  I don’t know what their travel plans are, but that will be the President’s final trip aboard the presidential aircraft, so it will be to —

Q    Do you know how long they’re going to be there?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any details about their time in Palm Springs and I don’t anticipate that that will be released.

Margaret.

Q    Josh, you said you didn’t think that boycotting the inauguration was really going to harm the peaceful transition, but is the President actively discouraging Democrats from boycotting, or would he discourage Democrats from boycotting the inauguration?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware that he has had a conversation discouraging people from participating in the inauguration.  And I’m not sure what he would say if he was asked if he would encourage people to do that.  Maybe you’ll get a chance to ask him that tomorrow.

Q    On two things actually, related to Russia.  Ambassador Power gave a speech today talking about U.S.-Russia.  She repeatedly used the phrase, “a willingness to lie” on behalf of Russia and that it’s actually a strategic deny-and-lie strategy they have.  Does President Obama feel that Vladimir Putin consistently lied to him?  I mean, is that how the President would characterize his relationship?

MR. EARNEST:  I think what Ambassador Power is making reference to are the public pronouncements that we’ve seen from the Russian government that routinely fly in the face of the facts on the ground.  I laid out the example to John with the situation in Syrian.  The example of Russian activity in Ukraine also applies.  Russia has steadfastly denied the presence of Russians in Ukraine who are actively working with separatists to try to undermine the central government in Ukraine.

So this is a tactic that we have seen form the Russians with regard to their public communications.  When the President has discussed his personal communications with Vladimir Putin, the President has indicated that President Putin is pretty blunt and businesslike.  And I think there’s only one time that I participated in one of those meetings and that was my observation as well.

Q    You agree he was blunt?

MR. EARNEST:  I would.  I would.

Q    But you would not say that he feels that in those conversations Putin has ever lied?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, I don’t think I can account for all of the conversations between President Obama and President Putin.  I would just say that President Obama has often said that public perception about his behind-the-scenes interactions with President Putin aren’t usually correct, that they do have pretty businesslike interactions and President Putin is pretty blunt in those conversations.

And what Ambassador Power was obviously referring were some of the public communications that we’ve seen from the Russians to say things about their activities that just aren’t true.

Q    There have been reports last week about the Israelis, this week about British intelligence, suggesting that their conversations with the CIA asking for reassurance that known assets in Russia would not be shared by the incoming administration with Moscow.  In other words, asking the U.S. to keep its secrets secret.  Is that something that the White House has been aware of?  Are those reports in any way accurate?  And is that kind of request appropriate?

MR. EARNEST:  I can’t speak to any of the conversations that our intelligence community has had with some of our closest allies.  I’ll let them describe those conversations.

The United States has worked hard to deepen our cooperation with the United Kingdom and the rest of our NATO allies for that matter, certainly as it relates to intelligence gathering.  Our ability to collect that intelligence and share it widely among our partners does make our alliance stronger.  And it makes our collective defense more effective.  But I can’t speak to any specific instructions or requests that the British intelligence services may have made to American intelligence services.

Q    And lastly, you said you wouldn’t characterize the readiness of the incoming administration. Secretary Kerry did publicly suggest that he was — the contact had been minimal with at least the incoming Secretary of State, should he be confirmed.  Would you say that the incoming administration has taken up the Obama administration in all of its offering to fully brief and fully read in the nominees?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Margaret, I think the thing that was evident to all of you in the earliest days of the transition is that the Trump administration had a pretty steep hill to climb with regard to their learning curve.  Is some of that related to the fact that they weren’t anticipating winning the election?  Probably.  But I think what we have seen over that time is conscientious, painstaking work on the part of the incoming administration to try to get up to speed.  And there has been substantial improvement in those efforts since the days immediately following the election.

I obviously can’t speak to all of the conversations across the federal government.  But it’s certainly fair for you to conclude that the capacity and capability of the incoming team has improved markedly since the first days after the election.

Jordan.

Q    Thanks, Josh, for the final time.  I wanted to ask you about a report in The Washington Post yesterday that said the President plans to make several hundred commutations before his final day.  Can you confirm that’s the plan?

MR. EARNEST:  I saw that report.  I don’t have any news to announce from here with regard to any commutations.  But if there are any clemency requests that are granted, we’ll make sure you’re among the first to hear about them.

Q    Yet last week you made an interesting argument about the differences between Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.  Can you at this point rule out that the President will give a pardon to Edward Snowden?

MR. EARNEST:  I can’t rule anything in or out.  I think the one thing that the Department of Justice has said — I’m looking at Brandi, and she’s giving me the poker face.  (Laughter.)  I believe what the Department of Justice has said is that — there you go.  What they have said and what Brandi has told me is that — (laughter) — Mr. Snowden has not filed paperwork to seek clemency from the administration.  But I don’t have any specific comments about whether or not that would impact any sort of presidential-level decision.

Sarah.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  On the note of pardons, the administration has been very proud of its ethical record.  And as we’ve seen in the past, some of these last-minute pardons can kind of trip some people up.  And so will — the clemency initiative, there’s sort of a structure for those.  But with the pardons, will the President issue all his pardons at a point where we’re still able to ask for an explanation about them?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I would say is simply that we’re aware of the history that you’ve alluded to.  The President has been judicious about using this authority in a way that he believes is consistent with American interests and the pursuit of justice.  And if we feel it is ever necessary for us to make that case, we’ll want to make sure that we have ample opportunity to make it.

I think I’ll leave it there.

Q    And can you just offer any more details about the President’s last day, his last hours in office?  Will he still get the presidential daily briefing?  Can you tell us who specifically is actually going to be showing up here on the 20th?

MR. EARNEST:  You mean in terms of staff?

Q    Yes.

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have that in front of me, but we will provide you with some contact information for the morning of the 20th should you need it.

Q    I’m just mean in terms of what he’s doing.  Like is Chief of Staff McDonough going to be here?  NSC Advisor?

MR. EARNEST:  We’ll work to see if we can compile some of those details.  I don’t have a lot of detailed information about that right now, but we’ll see if can get you something in advance of Friday.

Kevin.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  And despite our differences, thank you for being fair.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Kevin.  I appreciate that.

Q    And your staff is great, too, as well.

MR. EARNEST:  I appreciate it.

Q    Regardless of the clemency issue, is it fair to say that the process is still ongoing at this stage?  The review, is that still happening even today?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, this is a process that largely lives at the Department of Justice, and they’ve been very focused on this important work.  They’re working closely with the President’s attorneys here in the White House.  And, yes, it is fair to say that that work continues.

Q    I want to ask specifically about Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, in particular.  As it relates to Chelsea Manning, does the White House agree that Manning is being subjected to unfair treatment by the Army amid her daily fight to have her right to be identified as a woman?  Does the White House agree with that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not aware that the Commander-in-Chief has weighed in on this.  This is obviously complicated by the fact that Chelsea Manning is in the military criminal justice process and, of course, the Commander-in-Chief is at the top of the chain of command, which limits our ability to discuss her case in all that much detail.  But I’ll look and see if we have ever weighed on this specific question.  I know that it certainly is a question and a concern that’s been raised by some of Chelsea Manning’s advocates.

Q    And for the record, she was sentenced to 35 years.  Does the White House believe that that was a just sentence?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t heard the President weigh in on that either, again for the same kind of chain-of-command reasons that I just cited.

Q    But he may tomorrow?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, if he chooses to — you and Jordan will be among the first to know.  (Laughter.)

Q    Fair enough.  Jordan, I got first dibs.  (Laughter.)  Let me ask you about Edward Snowden.  Does his offer to turn himself in if Manning is, in fact, offered clemency weigh at all in the consideration for how the President might consider a pardon for Manning, or even for Snowden, do you think?

MR. EARNEST:  It does not, primarily because we believe that under any circumstances, Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the serious crimes with which he’s been charged.  He will, of course, be afforded the kind of due process that’s available to every American citizen who’s going through the criminal justice process.  But the crimes that he’s accused of committing are serious, and we believe that he should return to the United States and face them rather than seeking refuge in the arms of an adversary of the United States that has their own strategic interests in disseminating harmful — or disseminating information in a harmful way.

Q    So for clarity’s sake, it seems apparent that there’s little doubt that Edward Snowden will not be offered a pardon by this President.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s not something that — I can’t rule out any offer of clemency, or rule it in, frankly, from here.

Q    Based on what you just said, though — I mean, the President has been pretty clear, he hasn’t availed himself to even a conversation about prosecution or facing the charges that he may in fact be forced to face were he even here.  So based on that, it seems clear he’s not going to get a pardon, right?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, you’ve heard me note that that is one of the many differences between Mr. Snowden’s case and Chelsea Manning’s case.  But I can’t rule anything in or out at this point.

Q    Last one.  I want to ask you about Julian Assange.  Did the White House ask Britain or even Ecuador, perhaps, to take action against Julian Assange and/or shut down WikiLeaks at any point?  Did that come from this White House?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any specific request like that that was made.  You know that the U.S. intelligence community, and even the President, have expressed some deep concerns about the ties between Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks and other organizations like it that were created to disseminate either classified information or previously private information.  And we know that much of those efforts to disseminate that information was rooted in a Republican — Russian strategy to undermine confidence in American democracy.

So we have profound concerns about the way that that organization, WikiLeaks, has operated, and we have expressed profound concerns about the way that some of the things that they have done and some of the information that they have released has harmed our national security, has put our military and our intelligence officers in harm’s way and made their dangerous work even more dangerous.  But I can’t speak to any specific requests that may have been made of the Brits or the Ecuadoreans.

Ron.

Q    Just to follow up on this — the appointments of Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice and others to these boards.  Are these appointments that cannot be reversed by the President — the incoming President?  And were they made for that reason or with that in mind?

MR. EARNEST:  They weren’t made with that in mind.  I believe that these are the — that the appointments on these kinds of boards are part of the President’s executive authority and part of his responsibility.  And he chose to fill a couple of those positions with two of his most trusted aides.

Q    So they’re probably — are there terms?  Are there — I guess it would vary depending upon the —

MR. EARNEST:  There are terms, but we can get you the details.

Q    There’s also — there’s an education regulation that’s making its way — I believe it’s before the White House Budget Office.  You’re looking at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t think I do.

Q    It’s a regulation that would essentially change the funding mechanism within school districts and apportion more money to lower-income areas as compared to higher-income areas.  The question is where is that, is it going to make it, so on and so forth.

MR. EARNEST:  Let me have my colleagues at the Office of Management and Budget circle back with you to give you an update on where that stands.

Q    And just a last thing — can you give us any indication of what the President is really doing and focused on these last number of days?  I know you were asked about staffing and all that, but —

MR. EARNEST:  Other than saying really nice things about me — (laughter) — which I deeply appreciate, by the way?.

Q    It’s a — I mean, I know he’s concerned about national security, I know he’s concerned about the transition.  But just — I just wonder, what do you do when you have, like, a few days left after all this?

MR. EARNEST:  There’s a lot to be done.  Let me tell you at least one thing.  This morning, the President assembled senior members of his counterterrorism and homeland security team to review ongoing security planning for the 58th inauguration.  The President commended the comprehensive preparations across the law enforcement and intelligence community, and directed that all agencies maintain their high state of vigilance to ensure we are best postured to protect the homeland against individuals radicalized to violence.

The President was also briefed on counterterrorism operations in Iraq and Syria that are putting simultaneous pressure on ISIL inside Mosul and around Raqqa.  Over the weekend, as you may know, Iraqi security forces made significant gains in Mosul as ISIL defenses are collapsing in key parts of the city.  And in northern Syria, local partners continue to constrict ISIL’s movement in the vicinity of Raqqa.

The President noted the impact our strategy is having on the ground is the result of a deliberate effort to accelerate our campaign against ISIL, and that the coalition is well-postured to put ISIL on a path to lasting defeat.

I think the fact that the President held this meeting today is an indication that the President continues to be focused first and foremost on the safety and security of the United States and the American people.  And this is consistent with the kind of briefing that he has held with his national security team and with intelligence officials before major events.  The President typically does this before the holidays; he’ll often do this before the Fourth of July.  And obviously, with the upcoming inauguration, we want to make sure — the President wanted to make sure that our security posture was in place to protect the American people.

Q    That’s a Situation Room meeting?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know exactly where this meeting took place, but we can confirm that for you.

Q    Anything else?  Is he — we’ve talked about pardons and commutations, and talked about appointments.  Is there anything else that we can expect over the next number of hours that are work product, if you will, that the President is trying to get done before he leaves?  Even if you can identify some areas.  We know he’s concerned about immigration.  We know he’s concerned about social justice.  We know he’s concerned about a lot of things.

MR. EARNEST:  Right.

Q    Can you point us to anything that he is, in the final hours, really trying to focus on and get done?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t have any announcements to preview, but the President has still got a lot of work to do.  And even in just the last couple of days here, he’s focused on the task at hand, even as he also does some of the other things around the White House, like bidding a fond farewell to members of his staff and other people from across the administration, and also I think spending some time thinking about his own time and his own tenure here.  But stay tuned.  If there’s more, we’ll let you know.

Carol.

Q    Thank you.  I guess I’ll follow on that note.  Can you give us an update on the President’s efforts to close Guantanamo?  And are you prepared at this time to just — say it will remain open Friday afternoon?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I can confirm — and I think this is something that you’ve already reported — that there was a transfer of 10 detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the government of Oman.  With that transfer being completed, there are now 45 detainees at Gitmo.  When President Obama took office, the detainee population was at 242, so since that time, we’ve moved 193 detainees to 42 countries for repatriation, resettlement, or prosecution.

Obviously, that work was a result of the review that President Obama ordered almost exactly eight years ago today to ask the intelligence community and other national security agencies to engage in a case-by-case review of the files of the detainees, and determine if any of them could be transferred to other countries under a set of strict security requirements that would limit their ability to harm the United States.  And so that’s been an effort that has greatly reduced the prison population.

At this point, I don’t anticipate that we will succeed in that goal of closing the prison, but it’s not for a lack of trying — that, I assure you.  And the only reason it didn’t happen is because of the politics that members of Congress in both parties, frankly, played with this issue.  And it has put the United States in a position where, because of the obstacles erected by Congress, terrorist organizations have a powerful recruiting tool, and millions in taxpayer dollars are wasted to operate this large facility for 45 people, potentially less.

That’s not a good use of taxpayer dollars, and it certainly isn’t the most effective way to protect our country.  And that’s not just a conclusion that President Obama has reached, that’s a conclusion that’s been reached by people like President Bush and senior members of his national security team.  So this isn’t a partisan issue, and I think the disappointment at Congress’s action in this area is also bipartisan in nature.

Q    Two follow-ups on that.  At what point did the President make that determination, that he would not succeed? And do you expect any additional transfers this week?

MR. EARNEST:  The possibility of additional transfers remains a possibility.  Look, I think once there was a — once we’d reach the 30-day deadline for notifying Congress in advance of detainee transfers, the likelihood of succeeding in closing the prison was quite remote.

Q    One other quick question.  Chinese President Xi today delivered a speech in Davos where he gave a defense of globalization and warned against a trade war and protectionism, and this is obviously something the President has spoken a lot about, and I’m curious if you have any reaction to the Chinese President’s speech.

MR. EARNEST:  I didn’t read the text of President Xi’s remarks, but certainly based on the news coverage, I think this does surface a central question — for the American people, for policymakers, for economic leaders, and even national security leaders — about what role the United States is going to play in the global economy and what role the United States is going to play in Asia Pacific.  And President Obama put forward his own strategy, one that sought to deepen our alliances with Australia, South Korea, and Japan that has resulted in a beefed-up military presence in the Asia Pacific, to protect our allies, to deepen our coordination and cooperation with them, and to ensure they’re protected from threats that emanate in the region.

The President also felt strongly that that intensified security cooperation should be partnered with greater economic integration in that region of the world.  Southeast Asia in particular is home to some of the most dynamic economies in the world.  These are smaller countries, but they have rapidly growing middle-class populations, and many of the countries who signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement are home to those economies.  And the completion of that agreement and the ratification of that agreement by Congress would have given American businesses a better opportunity to compete in that part of the world.  That would have been good for our economy and good for our businesses and, most importantly, good for our workers.

The agreement would have required other countries to slash 18,000 taxes that they impose on American products.  It would have held those countries accountable for raising labor standards, raising human rights standards, raising environmental standards, the kinds of standards that we already observe here.  And to shut off the U.S. from those kinds of agreements isn’t just a missed opportunity, it actually puts the United States at a greater disadvantage because we’re hearing many of those countries indicate a desire to move forward with that agreement.

So that means that other countries who have signed on are going to be at an advantage over U.S. products, to say nothing of the role of the Chinese.  China would love to come and strike their own agreements with these other countries for the same reasons that we would like to — because these are some of the fastest-growing economies of the world and they have a rapidly growing middle class that could be available to buy Chinese products.  And we know that if the Chinese negotiate a deal, they’re not looking to raise human rights standards; they’re not looking to raise labor standards; they’re not looking to put in place strict, tough intellectual property protections.

So the President is deeply disappointed that Congress hasn’t moved to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership because of the obvious benefits for the American people.  And that’s going to have consequences not just for our economy and the success that our country has in confronting the forces of globalization and looking out for the interests of working people, it’s also going to have an impact on our national security.

So obviously the incoming administration has proposed a different strategy when it comes to countering the forces of globalization.  I believe the President’s economic record speaks for itself.  And all of you will have an opportunity to test just how — well, whether or not the strategy put forward by the incoming administration works and actually serves the interests of the American people, the American economy, and American workers.

Mark.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  Have there ever been days when you’ve dreaded coming out here?  (Laughter.)  Or let me put it another way — have there been days when you didn’t dread coming out here?  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Let me answer your question this way.  There was — I did the briefing here — well, I did a briefing like this 354 times as Press Secretary —

Q    My count is higher.

MR. EARNEST:  Is it higher?

Q    Yeah.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the stenographers separated out the times that I briefed as the Principal Deputy Press Secretary, so that may account for the difference, but we can look at the numbers.

Q    I also counted gaggles.

MR. EARNEST:  They did, too.  I did almost the same number as both the Press Secretary and as the Deputy.

Q    I trust Mark’s number.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  That’s understandable.  That’s understandable.  In the 354 or so times that I walked into this room, I never took for granted the blessing that was the opportunity to stand here.  And most people don’t have an opportunity to influence the debate in this way.  The arguments that you hear me make, these are President Obama’s arguments.  This is his vision for the country that I’m advocating for.  So I’m not trying to take credit for that.

But these are arguments, and this is a vision for the country, and these are values that I passionately believe in.  And having the opportunity to influence the way that those arguments are made, to look for ways to deliver them in the most persuasive way that I can think of is an extraordinary intellectual challenge, but it also really gives me an opportunity to shape the debate in a way that few other people in this town have.

So there were days when I knew I was going to come out here and get some tough questions, and there were days when I was going to walk back to my office frustrated about how it went, but I never took for granted what an extraordinary opportunity it is to be a part of this process with you and to advocate for a President and a vision that I deeply believe in.  And I’m going to miss it.  It’ll be — at the risk of oversharing, it’ll be hard to — well, let me say it this way — (laughter) — it’ll take some getting used to, to seeing somebody else stand up here doing it.

Q    Or not.

THE PRESIDENT:  Or not. (Laughter.)  And — but that’s —

Q    Are you going to watch?

MR. EARNEST:  I’ll probably watch.  I’m interested in what happens in here, and I think it’s important for the country.  And I’ll be paying attention.

Q    Marlin Fitzwater used to say that after he left that job, he used to love putting his feet up, pouring a glass of wine, and watching someone else face all the questions.  (Laughter.)  Is that how you think you’ll be watching your successor?

MR. EARNEST:  There may be a time or two when schadenfreude creeps in.  But look — again, I’ve got enormous respect for the work that all of you do and for the conventions that we have erected to engage in this discussion, and it’s been an honor to be a part of it.  And yeah, I’m interested in what happens here, and I’ll continue to follow it.  But I will be relieved to not have the burden to follow it as closely as this job has required over the last two-and-a-half years.

Go ahead, JC.

Q    It’s sort of a personal question and it follows up, I hope, on what Mark was saying.  The President alluded earlier that you could possibly have a career on the silver screen.  (Laughter.)  Many of us — I believe that.  Keep smiling — that’s it.  Perfect.  And we know that you’re not going to require your very patient wife, Natalie, and your son, Walker, to pepper you with tough questions every day between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon.  But to follow up, where is your passion going?  What would you like to do?  And where do you want to follow your dream?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ll tell you that I’ve had this conversation with the President.  And one of the challenges of the job is it is all-consuming.  It’s difficult to remember a day in which the first thing that pops into my head when I open my eyes in the morning — usually in the dark — was to wonder what I needed to get done in order to prepare for this briefing, or to fulfill my responsibilities at the White House.

So I’m looking forward to having a little bit more time and space, both physically and intellectually, to reflect on this experience and to consider what the future might hold.  But I honestly don’t know.

Q    Will you keep us posted?

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah, I’ll keep you posted.

Mark.

Q    Yes, just to clarify two quick things.

MR. EARNEST:  Sure.

Q    The clemency petitions that have come in, you led us to believe last week that there would be a round, some size, of additional clemencies before the President leaves?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.

Q    That is still the case, correct?  Whatever size they are.

MR. EARNEST:  What I can tell you is that the work on this issue continues, and I certainly wouldn’t rule out additional announcements before noon on Friday.

Q    The President considers this still an important part of his legacy.

MR. EARNEST:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

Q    And the President’s plans on Friday — I know you don’t want to go into detail about it — but we’re right in calling this a vacation, correct?  He’s not planning to go out and do speeches right away and meetings and stuff like that.

MR. EARNEST:  That is correct.  The President will not be working when he arrives in Palm Springs.

Q    Perhaps a fair amount of putting and other things?

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah, and I’m sure that many of you will be disappointed you won’t have the opportunity to tag along.  (Laughter.)

Scott.

Q    Is the First Family going to be staying in rental housing?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know where they’re going to be staying in Palm Springs, and I doubt we’ll announce it in advance.

Q    And you’re leaving your office on Thursday afternoon or evening, but will you and your team will have control of the emails and Twitter and WhiteHouse.gov up until noontime?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, there is a plan in place to effect that transition at noon on Friday.  I’m not sure exactly how they’re going to do that.  But it’s part of — it’s one of the reasons I have so much admiration for my colleagues who are more technologically inclined than I am.

John.

Q    Thanks, a lot, Josh.  Congratulations on your 354th briefing, or whatever that number is.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    Given all of your experience in this briefing room, can you talk a little bit from your perspective about the advantages of coming out to the James S. Brady Briefing Room to talk to us on a regular basis?

MR. EARNEST:  This is a place that’s recognized immediately around the world as the place where announcements at the White House are made.  And again, the symbolic value of this podium in this room in front of all of you is powerful.  And it sends a strong message not just to the American people, but to people around the world about what the White House is doing, what the President is focused on, what his priorities are, and how he’s seeking to advance our interests.

So again, I think that there are a lot of common-sense logistical reasons to preserve the kind of access that all of you have to the West Wing.  But I wouldn’t overlook the important, symbolic value that makes the arrangement that we have in the United States rather unique.

Q    As far as statements, which are regularly put out by your office, I didn’t notice a statement in regards to the death of Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.  Was that an oversight?  Can you talk a little bit about his contribution to our country?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I obviously read some of the news coverage about Mr. Cernan’s death.  And he certainly falls in the category of American hero, somebody who risked his life in the earliest days of the American space program to do remarkable things and inspire the American people to reach for great heights — reach for great heights.  And obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with his family today and those how loved him.

I can’t speak to why there wasn’t a presidential statement.  But certainly the President and First Lady made note of his death and are remembering him along with some of the other Americans who were inspired by his courage.

Richard.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  On behalf of the foreign press, I also want to thank you.  You’ve been helpful but very welcoming.  And all of us, we benefited from your openness so much.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Richard.

Q    You have to know that all this has been very much appreciated.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    Knowing that there are also many auto plants in Canada, I would like your reaction to the President-elect’s comment or intention on imposing a 35 percent tax on German cars being built in Mexico and sold in the U.S.

MR. EARNEST:  Richard, I think this is a pertinent question.  The President, on his last trip to Canada over the summer, talked about this very issue.

The U.S. auto industry is part of an integrated global supply chain.  And the presence of a lot of those suppliers for U.S. automakers is actually in Canada, and it speaks to the important ties between our two countries.  And maintaining those robust ties is good for the economy in both our countries; that if you shut down the supply chain or you shut down the trade between the United States and Canada, you’re going to cut off the American auto industry from the global supply chain in a way that’s going to have direct and negative consequences for American businesses and American workers.

That’s a real problem.  And I think it is an illustration of why President Obama has chosen a different strategy that actually seeks to ensure that other countries, including Canada, are living up to the kinds of high standards that are set here in the United States and were codified in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Canada, of course, was part of those negotiations and signed onto the deal.

So the President has spoken out about this at some length.  He certainly does believe that the strategy that he has advocated is the right one, but the incoming President has some different ideas in mind.  And we’ll have an opportunity to assess whether or not his strategy is going to work.

Jean.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  You have worked hard as White House press secretary.  I deeply appreciate you.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Jean, I appreciate that.  That’s very kind.

Q    Can I follow — ask a question.  After you — whatever — you go out the White House, can I also ask on those issues?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m sorry, say one more time?

Q    Can I follow up on the North Korean issues — continue —

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there will be somebody else in the White House who will be setting policy with regard to the United States’ relationship with North Korea.  And I am hopeful there will be somebody else who is here answering your questions, but I certainly have enjoyed the opportunity that you and I have had to discuss this critically important national security priority of the United States.

Q    Thank you very much.  On THAAD missile issues.  Last week, incoming administration (inaudible) and South Korean national security agency director agreed to deploy THAAD missile in South Korea.  On this regard, China continues to threaten retaliation against South Korea for THAAD issues.  What can the United States do about Chinese actions?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the United States has made clear that the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea would be focused solely on countering the missile threat that emanates from North Korea.  South Korea is an ally of the United States of America.  We are duty-bound to defend them.  And President Obama has made clear, and I think the tens of thousands of U.S. troops that are on the ground in Korea right now make clear, that we’re going to live up to that promise.  And the deployment of a THAAD battery in South Korea would enhance our ability to do exactly that.

We’ve explained that to the Chinese at the highest levels, and we’ll continue to go to great lengths to help them understand exactly what we are trying to do.  And I know that that is something that is taking place not just at the presidential level, but I know that there have been some conversations through diplomatic channels, military channels to try to ease the concerns of the Chinese that this is an effort that’s focused on North Korea and not on having any impact on China’s capabilities.

Q    And one more thing.  Recently, high-level diplomat — North Korean defector, Thae Yong-ho, from UK — he has testimony, and he said that North Korean Kim Jong-un will (inaudible) nuclear weapons, and that he also said that it is a waste of time for Six-Party talks to (inaudible) the North Korean nuclear weapons.  Do you think we still need Six-Party talks?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I haven’t seen the specific comments of the defector that you cited, but I can tell you it’s the United States’ policy that the United States is prepared to engage with North Korea diplomatically when they make clear a commitment to a set of principles, including denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.  And we’ve made that clear, and that policy hasn’t changed.

Let’s do a couple more here.  John.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  And despite differences on things, thanks for your graciousness to me and always helping me on answers, and especially helping some friends of mine when they wanted some things in the White House.

MR. EARNEST:  You’re welcome, John.  I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with you, as well.

Q    Thank you.  Questions are twofold.  First, David Horowitz, the author, has come out with a book entitled “Big Agenda,” in which he says that Donald Trump has an agenda to repeal or roll back 90 percent of the executive orders and executive actions that President Obama took in his eight years in office.  Your reaction to that?  And do you think that’s possible to actually do?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t heard of the book that you’re referring to.  What I can tell you is that President Obama has often made the argument that there’s a difference between campaigning and governing.  And I know that the incoming President made a lot of promises about all of the executive actions that he was going to repeal, but when he’s responsible for governing the country, he will have to reconcile those promises with the impact — the negative impact that following through on those promises would have on the country.  That may end up altering his decision to follow through, but ultimately those will be decisions for him to make.

And it’s why you heard me on many occasions express a preference for working with Congress to try to institute policy that would be good for the country.  But we ran into a brick wall of opposition when it comes to Republicans when they took power in 2011, and so we didn’t pass as much legislatively as we would have liked to have done.  But the President did use his executive authority to advance our country’s interests and to advance the agenda that he was seeking to implement.  And the incoming President will have to determine how much of that he wants to roll back.

Q    And I’ve been dying to ask this all day — all week, actually.  Two former press secretaries to presidents have gone on to run for elective office after they left the podium up there, both unsuccessful.  Would you ever consider relocating to your home state, the “Show Me” state of Missouri, where they do need some fresh Democrats — I don’t think you’ll argue about it — (laughter) — and run for office yourself?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I can tell you is that I know that there are a lot of talented young Missourians who are Democrats who should not be overlooked.  And I’ve certainly been in touch with some of them, and I think there’s a bright future for Democrats in Missouri, but at this point I’m not planning to be one of them.

Jared.

Q    Josh, over the weekend the President-elect told the Washington Post that he is supporting insurance for everybody, health insurance for everybody.  Is this a plan that the President — said he’ll support something that’s better than Obamacare?  Is that enough to whet his appetite?  Or does he need more information?

MR. EARNEST:  Jared, the President — I can tell you that President Obama looks forward to somebody calling his bluff.  The President spoke on live, national television, in primetime, looked directly into the camera and said that he will advocate for policy, even if it’s put forward by Republicans, if it will cover more people and more effectively lower costs than even Obamacare has.

So the President stands by that promise.  And according to what the President-elect promised to The Washington Post, it sounds like we might get a chance to see whether or not he’s calling that bluff.  The best way to cover everybody, and I think the only way that anybody thinks you can cover everybody, is through a single-payer plan.

So it’s unclear, I think, exactly at this point exactly what the incoming administration’s plans are.  It does not appear that, according to some reporting that I saw, that even their nominee to be HHS secretary is clear exactly what their plans are.

But the President made that commitment, and he’ll stand by it.  And I assure you that there are few things that would make him happier in his post-presidency than to have the incoming administration call his bluff, because this is an issue that he feels strongly about.  And as he himself has said, there’s no pride of authorship here.  If there are improvements that can be made on Obamacare, he won’t hesitate to support them.

Q    And I know that you haven’t given us information about the frequency or duration or readouts of the calls between the President and the President-elect, but I want to ask, looking forward, once he’s on vacation after Inauguration Day, then-former President Obama, what’s the level of his unpluggedness, and will he be available if there’s a call from the Commander-in-Chief?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think what is certainly true of former presidents is they have a unique perspective on the burden and challenges that are assumed by the incoming President.  And as President Obama said the day after the election, he’s rooting for the incoming President to succeed in uniting the country.  And if there’s an opportunity for former-President Obama to assist in that effort, I’m confident that wherever he is, he’ll take the call.

Lalit.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  I join in thanking you on behalf of the foreign press for working with us.

MR. EARNEST:  You’re welcome.

Q    And in fact, the first foreign pool was done when the President invited Indian Prime Minister in November of 2009, and since then we are having (inaudible).  In the first briefing that the President — the press secretary did in 2009, the main foreign policy topic was the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  (Inaudible) was not.  But my question is, there are still 10,000 troops left in Afghanistan.  Does the President regret that he hasn’t recalled all the troops from there?  And had the situation been different, had Pakistan been more helpful in eliminating terrorist safe havens from their territories?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, with regard to Pakistan, obviously, the United States has an extraordinarily complicated relationship, particularly when it comes to national security, with Pakistan.  There are some areas where the United States and Pakistan have been able to effectively cooperate to counter terrorism and to fight extremism, and that’s served the interests of both countries.  And obviously, tragically, Pakistan is a country where many victims of terrorism have been claimed.

And the President certainly is interested and is hopeful that the next administration will be able to deepen that cooperation with Pakistan, because it wouldn’t just enhance security in Pakistan; it actually would make the United States safer, too.

With regard to Afghanistan, I think this will be the kind of issue that historians spend a lot of time looking at when evaluating President Obama’s presidency.  What President Obama promised to do when taking office was to refocus our attention on the threat from al Qaeda that emanates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.  And President Obama put in place a strategy, working closely with his national security team, at the State Department and the intelligence community, and, of course, the Department of Defense.  And over the course of several years, in part relying on some new capabilities, succeeded in decimating core al Qaeda that previously menaced the United States from hideouts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

That is a major accomplishment, and it’s an accomplishment that has made the American people safer.  But the threat in that region of the world has not been eliminated, and there continue to be a smaller number of U.S. servicemembers keeping us safe, engaging in counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

They’re also working closely with thousands of troops from our NATO partners who are also there doing the same thing.  And I know there has been a question raised about how important a role NATO has played when it comes to counterterrorism.  You have to look no further than Afghanistan to assess just how valuable a contribution that they have made to that effort.

So the situation in Afghanistan continues to be one of concern, and I think the President would acknowledge that this is an area where we’ve made important progress that has made the American people safer, but there’s still important work to be done in this region of the world, and this is a responsibility that the incoming President will assume.

Q    And the President visited India twice; no other President had in the past.  And he has met with Prime Minister Modi both times.  What kind of relationship the President would like the new administration to have with the largest democratic country in the world?

MR. EARNEST:  President Obama did make strengthening our ties with India a genuine priority.  The President believed that that served our economic interest and our national security interest, and that would certainly explain the frequent visits of both Indian Prime Ministers during President Obama’s tenure in office to the White House, and it would explain President Obama’s visits to India as well.  And each of those visits was oriented around a discussion about how to deepen our economic ties in a way that has positive benefits for workers in both our countries, but also to look for ways that we can work more effectively together to fight extremism and to enhance the security of citizens in both our countries.

And President Obama certainly believes that we have made important progress in deepening and strengthening the relationship between two of the world’s largest democracies, and is hopeful that that progress will continue under the next administration.

Francesca, I’m going to give my Kansas City girl the last one.  (Laughter.)

Q    Thank you.  I truthfully was going to ask first, what the heck happened with the Chiefs the other night?  (Laughter.)  I’d like to know the answer to that.

MR. EARNEST:  Unfortunately, it’s just the latest in a long string of heartbreaking playoff defeats for the Kansas City Chiefs.  So there’s always next year.

Q    While endeavoring to keep it light here at the end, I apologize if you said some of this earlier, there was a little bit of a commotion at the beginning of the briefing —

MR. EARNEST:  There was.

Q    Did you say how long the President and First Lady will be staying in Palm Beach?  Is this like a quick trip or —

MR. EARNEST:  Palm Springs.

Q    Sorry, sorry, Palm Springs.  Gosh, not Palm Beach — that’s the other President.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  I did not say how long they’re going to stay.  They will arrive on Friday afternoon in Palm Springs, but I don’t anticipate having any updates on their travel schedule beyond then.

Q    And you said the First Family — so the daughters will also be going on that trip as well?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s my understanding.  And we’ll confirm that for you on Friday.

Q    Is there a possibility that perhaps, immediately after that, they’ll go back to Chicago?  When they were there the other day, they didn’t stay overnight — hadn’t visited the home.  Is that potential in the docket?  Trying to get one last week ahead here out of you.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah.  I guess this is one of the benefits of ending the presidency on a Friday, is I don’t anticipate that there will be any more weeks-ahead.  The President and the First Lady and their family are looking forward to getting out to Palm Springs and beginning to relax a little bit, but I don’t have any updates on their plans beyond that.

Q    And then one final question.  We always assumed that the book the President was writing was a memoir.  Is it possible that he’s writing the next great American novel?

MR. EARNEST:  If he is, he has not told me that, but I think for a variety of reasons we’re all eagerly anticipating how President Obama chooses to devote his time after leaving the White House.

So, thank you all.  It’s been a genuine pleasure.  (Applause.)

2:15 P.M. EST

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 16, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Honoring the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Honoring the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs

Source: WH, 1-16-17

East Room

1:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  They said this day would never come.  (Laughter and applause.)  Here is something none of my predecessors ever got a chance to say:  Welcome to the White House the World Series Champion, Chicago Cubs!  (Applause.)

Now, I know you guys would prefer to stand the whole time, but sit down.

I will say to the Cubs:  It took you long enough.  I mean, I’ve only got four days left.  You’re just making it under the wire.  (Laughter.)

Now, listen, I made a lot of promises in 2008.  We’ve managed to fulfill a large number of them.  But even I was not crazy enough to suggest that during these eight years we would see the Cubs win the World Series.  But I did say that there’s never been anything false about hope.  (Laughter and applause.)  Hope — the audacity of hope.

PARTICIPANT:  Yes, we can!

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we can.

Now, listen, for those of you from Chicago who have known me a long time, it is no secret that there’s a certain South Side team that has my loyalty.  For me, the drought hasn’t been as long.  We had the ’85 Bears; we had the the Bulls’ run in the ‘90s.  I’ve hosted the Blackhawks a number of times.  The White Sox did win just 11 years ago with Ozzie and Konerko and Buerhle.  So I can’t claim that I have the same visceral joy of some in this White House.  (Laughter.)

But FLOTUS is a lifelong Cubs fan.  (Applause.)  And I will tell you, she had to go to another event, but in eight years that I’ve been here — I told the team this — in the eight years that I’ve been here, we’ve hosted at least 50 teams — football, basketball, baseball, soccer, you name it — Michelle has never come to a single event celebrating a champion until today.  (Applause.)  And she came and shook hands, and met with every one of these members of the Cubs organization, and told a story about what it meant for her to be able to see them win, because she remembers coming home from school and her dad would be watching a Cubs game, and the bond and the family, the meaning that the Cubs had for her in terms of connecting with her father and why it meant so much for her.  And I almost choked up listening to it.  And it spoke, I think, to how people feel about this organization, and that it’s been passed on generation after generation, and it’s more than sports.

And that is not just true for FLOTUS.  My longest-serving aide, Anita, is a Cubs fan.  (Applause.)  “Fan” is not enough.  When they won, the next day she said, this is the best day of my life.  ((Laughter.)  And I said, what about me winning the presidency?  What about your wedding day?  She’s like, “No, this is the best.”  My chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan — (applause) — Cubs fan.  In fact, there were a lot of sick days during the playoffs.  (Laughter.)  One of my staff members was caught being interviewed at a bar outside of Wrigley — (laughter) — and we’re watching him being interviewed.  You remember?  And he’s looking kind of sheepish about it.  It’s like, why aren’t you in the office?  (Laughter.)

But, look, the truth is, there was a reason not just that people felt good about the Cubs winning.  There was something about this particular Cubs team winning that people felt good about.  For example, David Ross and I have something in common — we’ve both been on a “year-long retirement party.”  (Laughter and applause.)  But unlike Grandpa, my team has not yet bought me a scooter with a motorized golf caddy.  But there are four days left — maybe I’ll get that.

The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Teddy Roosevelt was President.  Albert Einstein — or was it Thomas Edison was still alive.  The first Cubs radio broadcast wouldn’t be for almost two decades.  We’ve been through World Wars, a Cold War, a Depression, space race, all manner of social and technological change.  But during that time, those decades were also marked by Phil Cavarretta and Ernie Banks; Billy Williams, who’s here today — (applause) — Ron Santo; Ferg, Ryne Sandberg, Dawson, Maddux, Grace.  Those decades were punctuated by Lee Elia’s rants and Harry Caray’s exuberance; “Hey Hey,” and “Holy Cow,” and capped off by “Go Cubs Go.”

So the first thing that made this championship so special for so many is, is that the Cubs know what it’s like to be loyal, and to persevere and to hope, and to suffer, and then keep on hoping.  And it’s a generational thing.  That’s what you heard Michelle describing.  People all across the city remember the first time a parent took them to Wrigley, where memories of climbing into dad’s lap to watch games on WGN — and that’s part of the reason, by the way, why Michelle had invited — made sure that José Cardenal was here, because that was her favorite player.  (Applause.)  And she was describing — back then he had a big afro, and she was describing how she used to wear her hat over her afro the same way José did.

You could see all that love this season in the fans who traveled to their dads’ gravesites to listen to games on the radio; who wore their moms’ old jerseys to games; who covered the brick walls of Wrigley with love notes in chalk to departed fans whose lifelong faith was finally fulfilled.

None of this, of course, would have happened without the extraordinary contributions of the Ricketts family.  Tom met his wife, Cece, in the bleachers of Wrigley about 30 years ago — which is about 30 years longer than most of relationships that begin there last.  (Laughter and applause.)  Our dear friend Laura Ricketts met her wife, Brooke, in the ballpark, as well.

Brothers and sisters — they turned this team around by hiring what has to be one of the greatest, if not — I mean, he’s still pretty young, so we’ll see how long he keeps on going — the greatest general managers of all time, Theo Epstein — (applause) — and along with Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod.  They did just an unbelievable job.  Theo, as you know — his job is to quench droughts.  86 years in Boston; 108 in Chicago.  He takes the reins of an organization that’s wandering in the wilderness, he delivers them to the Promised Land.  I’ve talked to him about being DNC chair.  (Laughter and applause.)  But he decided wisely to stick to baseball.

That brings me to the other thing that was so special about this championship — and that’s just the guys behind me, the team.  They steamrolled the majors this year with a 103-win record.  All you had to know about this team was encapsulated in that one moment in Game 5, down three games to one, do or die, in front of the home fans when David Ross and Jon Lester turned to each other and said, “I love you, man.”  And he said, “I love you, too.”  It was sort of like an Obama-Biden moment.  (Laughter.)

And then you’ve got the manager, Joe Maddon, who — (applause) — let’s face it, there are not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy.  Look how he looks right now.  (Applause.)  That’s cool.  That’s cool.  He used costume parties and his “Shaggin’ Wagon.”  (Laughter.)  So he’s got — just saying — he’s got a lot of tricks to motivate.  But he’s also a master of tactics, and makes the right move at the right time:  when to pinch hit, when to pinch run, when to make it rain — (laughter) — in Game 7 of the World Series.  It was masterful.  So he set the tone, but also some of the amazing players here set the tone.

My fellow “44” — Anthony Rizzo, the heart of this team.  (Applause.)  Five years ago, he was a part of the squad that lost 101 games.  He stuck at it, and led the National League in All-Star votes this year.

His business partner in the “Bryzzo Souvenir Company,” which delivers baseballs to fans in all parts of the bleachers — Kris Bryant.  (Applause.)  This guy had a good year.  (Laughter.)  You go from Rookie of the Year to being the MVP.  You win the World Series.  And then, like me, he marries up and comes to the White House.  And he did all this just in 10 days — (laughter) — when it took me a long time.  So, congratulations to the newlyweds, Jessica and Kris Bryant.  (Applause.)

And then you got these young guys like Baez and Russell.  (Applause.)   Baez turning tagging into an art form.  Russell becoming the youngest player to hit a World Series Grand Slam since Mickey Mantle.  (Applause.)  And you mix these amazing young talents with somebody like David Ross who, for example, helped Anthony out of his “glass case of emotions” in Game 7.  (Applause.)  But think about what Ross did in his final season:  Caught a no-hitter, surpassed 100 home runs for his career, including one in his last game ever.  If there was ever a way to go out, this was it.

And then you got Ben Zobrist, who didn’t get to come to the White House last year after winning it all with the Royals, but then hits .357 in the World Series, go-ahead RBI in the 10th inning of Game 7, World Series MVP.  I think he’s earned his way here.  (Applause.)  And is apparently a good guy, because I asked his wife — she was in line before he was — and I said, has he gotten a big head since he got the whole MVP thing?  “No, he’s so sweet, he’s so humble.”  You owe her dinner tonight.  (Laughter.)

Extraordinary pitching staff, including Kyle Hendricks, the first Cub to lead the majors in ERA since 1938.  (Applause.)  Kyle, in turn, was the only pitcher this year with a better ERA than Jon Lester, who racked up 19 wins.  (Applause.)  Good job. Jake Arrieta, 2015 Cy Young Award winner, stretched a 20-game win streak featuring two no-hitters across the past two seasons, then hit a home run in the NLDS, and won two games in the World Series.  So, apparently Pilates works.  Michelle says it does.  (Applause.)

And then, finally, the game itself and the Series itself.  To come back from a 3-1 deficit against a great Cleveland Indians team forced what is widely considered the Game 7 of all time.  Dexter Fowler becomes the first player to hit a leadoff home run in Game 7.  (Applause.)  Javy Baez hits another leadoff the fifth.  David Ross becomes the oldest player to knock one out in a Game 7, as well.  Kyle Schwarber, who’s been hurt and hobbled, then suddenly he comes in and gets seven hits in the Series — three in Game 7 alone.  (Applause.)

And then you’ve got the 10th inning, you’ve got the rain.  God finally feeling mercy on Cubs fans.  An entire game, an entire season, an entire century of hope and heartbreak all coming down to a one-inning sprint.  And then Zobrist knocked in one, Montero knocked in another.  Carl Edwards, Jr. and Mike Montgomery teamed up to shut the Indians down.

And then, at 12:47 a.m. Eastern Time, Bryant — it looks like he’s going to slip; everybody is getting a little stressed — tosses a grounder to Rizzo; Rizzo gets the ball, slips it in his back pocket — (laughter) — which shows excellent situational awareness.  (Laughter and applause.)  And suddenly everything is changed.  No more black cats, billy goats, ghosts, flubbed grounders.  The Chicago Cubs are the champs.  And on ESPN, you’ve got Van Pelt saying, “one of the all-time great nights.”  You’ve got Tim Kurkjian calling it “the greatest night of baseball in the history of the game.”  Two days later, millions of people — the largest gathering of Americans that I know of in Chicago.  And for a moment, our hometown becomes the very definition of joy.  So, in Chicago, I think it’s fair to say you guys will be popular for a while.  (Laughter.)

But, in addition, they’re also doing a lot of good work. Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester raised money to help others beat cancer like they did.  (Applause.)  Under the Ricketts Family’s leadership, last year alone, Cubs Charities supported charitable grants and donations of nearly $4 million that reached nearly 120,000 children and young adults across Chicagoland.  (Applause.)  Under their “Let’s Give” initiative, Cubs staff, coaches, players, and spouses donated more than 1,500 hours of service last year to the community.  And after their visit here today, they will head to Walter Reed to visit with some of our brave wounded warriors.  (Applause.)

So just to wrap up, today is, I think, our last official event — isn’t it? — at the White House, under my presidency.  And it also happens to be a day that we celebrate one of the great Americans of all time, Martin Luther King, Jr.  And later, as soon as we’re done here, Michelle and I are going to go over and do a service project, which is what we do every year to honor Dr. King.  And it is worth remembering — because sometimes people wonder, well why are you spending time on sports, there’s other stuff going on — that throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together, even when the country is divided.  Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we were.  It is a game and it is celebration, but there’s a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here.  There’s a direct line between people loving Ernie Banks, and then the city being able to come together and work together in one spirit.

I was in my hometown of Chicago on Tuesday, for my farewell address, and I said, sometimes it’s not enough just to change the laws, you got to change hearts.  And sports has a way, sometimes, of changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t.  And sometimes it’s just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our days, but sometimes it also speaks to something better in us.  And when you see this group of folks of different shades and different backgrounds, and coming from different communities and neighborhoods all across the country, and then playing as one team and playing the right way, and celebrating each other and being joyous in that, that tells us a little something about what America is and what America can be.

So it is entirely appropriate that we celebrate the Cubs today, here in this White House, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday because it helps direct us in terms of what this country has been and what it can be in the future.

With that, one more time, let’s congratulate the 2016 World Champion, Chicago Cubs!  (Applause.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  Talk about a tough act to follow.  Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for inviting us.  We’re all honored to be here today, and we appreciate you taking the time on such an important day, Martin Luther King Day, and during such a historic week, the last week of your distinguished presidency.

As told on my way in here, actually, by our club historian, it’s actually not the first time this franchise has visited the White House.  It was 1888.  (Laughter.)  And we were known as the “Chicago White Stockings,” and we stopped in here to visit President Grover Cleveland.  And apparently, the team demanded for a proclamation to be named the best baseball team in the country.  The President refused, and the team went on their way.  (Laughter.)  Here we are, we’re going to make no such demands today.  (Laughter.)  But we appreciate those kind words.

The President was so kind to recognize our three Hall-of-Famers here with us today who are so synonymous with what it means to be a Cub — Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg.  (Applause.)  And, of course, José Cardenal, who got the longest hug from the First Lady we’ve ever seen — her favorite player of all time, you’re the MVP today.  (Laughter.)

And I want to, one more time, recognize all of the Ricketts family who are here today.  Tom, who’s been such an ideal leader for our organization.  Laura, who’s been such a strong supporter of this President.  And, Todd, who will embark on his journey in public service with a significant role in the new administration next week.  And, Pete, who’s busy governing Nebraska, couldn’t be here, but sends his best.

Finally, we’d like to recognize all of our wives and significant others who do so much to support us behind the scenes, our great “Front Office,” who have worked so hard.  (Applause.)

So, Mr. President, as you alluded to in Cleveland on November 2nd, and into the early morning of November 3rd, this special group of players behind me, in one of the greatest World Series games in history, ended the longest championship drought in American sports.  And when Kris Bryant’s throw settled into Anthony Rizzo’s glove for the final out of Game 7, the victory brought pride, joy, relief and redemption to Cub fans everywhere, including many in the White House.  (Applause.)

So, many of you were there, but the city of Chicago erupted, unified into celebration that continues to this day.  It was a thrilling, emotional time, and we think we even saw some White Sox fans smiling — (laughter) — which, Mr. President, brings us to you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

MR. EPSTEIN:  We know you may have a certain allegiance to another team on the other side of town, but we know you’re a very proud Chicagoan, and we know your better, wiser half, the First Lady — (laughter) — has been a life-long and very loyal Cub fan, which we appreciate very much.  And, of course, we have great faith in your intelligence, your common sense, your pragmatism, your ability to recognize a good thing when you see one.  (Laughter.)

So, Mr. President, with only a few days remaining in your tremendous presidency, we have taken the liberty here today of offering you a midnight pardon — (laughter and applause) — for all your indiscretions as a baseball fan.  And so we welcome you with open arms today into the Cubs family.  (Applause.)

To recognize this terrific conversion and this great day, we have some gifts for you and your family.  First, Anthony Rizzo has graciously agreed to share his number 44 with “The 44.”  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  There we go!

MR. EPSTEIN:  And if you’re still not comfortable putting a Cubs jersey on, this one just says Chicago, so you’re good with that one.  (Applause.)

Second, we have — at historic Wrigley Field, we have a centerfield scoreboard that’s actually a historic landmark, and so we hope the National Park Service won’t mind, but we took down a tile for you, number 44.  (Applause.)  Very few people have one of those.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, that’s very cool.

MR. EPSTEIN:  We also wanted you to know that, as a new fan, you have some catching up to do.  (Laughter.)  And you’ve been busy the last eight years, and your family as well, so Laura Ricketts is here to present you with a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field for you and your family.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I love how it says, “Non-transferrable.”  (Laughter.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  It’s strictly — it’s just an emolument.

THE PRESIDENT:  Can you imagine if somebody walks up and is like — (laughter) —

MS. RICKETTS:  You don’t have to bring it with you.

MR. EPSTEIN:  And finally, every time we win a game in Chicago, we fly the “W” flag, as you know.  So we brought one for you, signed by the entire team, and we’d love for you to fly it at your new library, which we plan to do our very best to support.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  This is nice swag.  Thank you so much.  This is great.

MR. JENKINS:  You got to get him to put the uniform on.  (Laughter.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  It’s just day one.  It’s just day one.

THE PRESIDENT:  Fergie, we’re doing okay so far.  (Laughter.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  So, Mr. President, thank you for the dignity and integrity with which you’ve served this country for the last eight years, for your tremendous service to Chicago and Illinois before that, and for hosting us here today.  We wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you on Wrigley Field.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, everybody, thank you so much.  Let me say, first of all, best swag I’ve gotten as President represented right here.  (Laughter.)  And let me also say on behalf of a lot of folks here in the White House, you brought a lot of joy to a lot of people here, and we’re grateful.  I know my former Chief of Staff, now mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel; folks like Dick Durbin, and we got a whole congressional delegation here; I see Lisa Madigan, my dear friend — just a lot of people have been rooting for you for a long time.

So even though it will be hard for me, Fergie, to wear a jersey, do know that among Sox fans, I’m the Cubs number-one fan.  (Laughter and applause.)

END
2:12 P.M. EST

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 14, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Final Weekly Address: The Honor of Serving You as President

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The Honor of Serving You as President

Source: WH, 1-14-17

WASHINGTON, DC — This week, President Obama delivered his final weekly address thanking the American people for making him a better President and a better man. Over the past eight years, we have seen the goodness, resilience, and hope of the American people. We’ve seen what’s possible when we come together in the hard, but vital work of self-government – but we can’t take our democracy for granted. Our success as a Nation depends on our participation. It’s up to all of us to be guardians of our democracy, and to embrace the task of continually trying to improve our Nation. Despite our differences, we all share the same title: Citizen. And that is why President Obama looks forward to working by your side, as a citizen, for all of his remaining days.

MP4MP3

Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address
The White House
January 14, 2017

This week, I traveled to Chicago to deliver my final farewell address to the nation, following in the tradition of Presidents before me.  It was an opportunity to say thank you.  Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant military outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going.  Every day, I learned from you.  You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

Over the course of these eight years, I have seen the goodness, the resilience, and the hope of the American people.  I’ve seen neighbors looking out for each other as we rescued our economy from the worst crisis of our lifetimes.  I’ve hugged cancer survivors who finally know the security of affordable health care.  I’ve seen communities like Joplin rebuild from disaster, and cities like Boston show the world that no terrorist will ever break the American spirit.

I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers.  I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in a Charleston church.  I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and our wounded warriors walk again.  I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks.  I’ve learned from students who are building robots and curing diseases and who will change the world in ways we can’t even imagine.  I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for our refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.

That’s what’s possible when we come together in the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but always vital work of self-government.   But we can’t take our democracy for granted.  All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the work of citizenship.  Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.  If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life.  If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, then grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.

Our success depends on our participation, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings.  It falls on each of us to be guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.  Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.

It has been the honor of my life to serve you as President.  Eight years later, I am even more optimistic about our country’s promise.  And I look forward to working along your side, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.

Thanks, everybody.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 12, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the Vice President in Presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden

Source: WH, 1-12-17

State Dining Room

3:50 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey!  All right, that’s enough.  Don’t want to embarrass the guy.  (Laughter.)

Welcome to the White House, everybody.  As I have already delivered my farewell address, I will try to be relatively brief.  But I just wanted to get some folks together to pay tribute to somebody who has not only been by my side for the duration of this amazing journey, but somebody who has devoted his entire professional life to service to this country, the best Vice President America has ever had, Mr. Joe Biden.  (Applause.)

This also gives the Internet one last chance to talk about our bromance.  (Laughter.)  This has been quite a ride.  It was eight and a half years ago that I chose Joe to be my Vice President.  There has not been a single moment since that time that I’ve doubted the wisdom of that decision.  He was the best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people.  This is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service.  This is somebody the people of Delaware sent to the Senate as quickly as they possibly could.  (Laughter.)

Elected at age 29, for more than a dozen years apiece he served as chair or ranking member of the Judiciary and Foreign Relation Committees.  Domestically, he championed landmark legislation to make our communities safer, to protect our women from violence.  Internationally, his wisdom and capacity to build relationships that shaped our nation’s response to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, to counterterrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan.

And for the past eight years, he could not have been a more devoted or effective partner in the progress that we’ve made.  He fought to make college more affordable and revitalize American manufacturing as the head of our Middle Class Task Force.  He suited up for our Cancer Moonshot, giving hope to millions of Americans touched by this disease.

He led our efforts to combat gun violence, and he rooted out any possible misappropriations that might have occurred.  And as a consequence, the Recovery Act worked as well as just about any largescale stimulus project has ever worked in this country.  He visited college after college — and made friends with Lady Gaga (laughter) — for our “It’s On Us” campaign against campus sexual assault.  And when the Pope visited, Joe was even kind enough to let me talk to His Holiness, as well.  (Laughter.)

Behind the scenes, Joe’s candid, honest counsel has made me a better President and a better Commander-in-Chief.  From the Situation Room to our weekly lunches, to our huddles after everybody else has cleared out of the room, he’s been unafraid to give it to me straight, even if we disagree — in fact, especially if we disagree.

And all of this makes him, I believe, the finest Vice President we have ever seen.  And I also think he has been a lion of American history.  The best part is he’s nowhere close to finished.  In the years ahead, as a citizen, he will continue to build on that legacy, internationally and domestically.  He’s got a voice of vision and reason and optimism, and a love for people.  And we’re going to need that spirit and that vision as we continue to try to make our world safer and to make sure that everybody has got a fair shot in this country.

So, all told, that’s a pretty remarkable legacy.  An amazing career in public service.  It is, as Joe once said, a big deal. (Laughter and applause.)  It is.

But we all know that, on its own, his work — this list of accomplishments, the amazing résumé — does not capture the full measure of Joe Biden.  I have not mentioned Amtrak yet or aviators.  (Laughter.)  Literally.  (Laughter.)

Folks don’t just feel like they know Joe the politician, they feel like they know the person — what makes him laugh, what he believes, what he cares about, and where he came from.  Pretty much every time he speaks, he treats us to some wisdom from the nuns who taught him in grade school — (laughter) — or from an old Senate colleague.

But, of course, more frequently cited — Catherine and Joseph, Sr., his mom and dad:  “No one’s better than you, but you’re better than nobody.” (Laughter.)  “Bravery resides in every heart, and yours is fierce and clear.”  “And when you get knocked down, Joey, get up — get up.”  (Laughter.)  “Get up.”  (Applause.)

That’s where he got those broad shoulders.  That’s where he got that Biden heart.  And through his life, through trial after trial, he has never once forgotten the values and the moral fiber that made him who he is.  That’s what steels his faith in God, and in America, and in his friends, and in all of us.

When Joe talks to autoworkers whose livelihoods he helped save, we hear the son of a man who once knew the pain of having to tell his kids that he had lost his job.

When Joe talks about hope and opportunity for our children, we hear the father who rode the rails home every night so that he could be there to tuck his kids into bed.

When Joe sticks up for the little guy, we hear the young boy who used to stand in front of the mirror, reciting Yeats or Emerson, studying the muscles in his face, determined to vanquish a debilitating stutter.

And when Joe talks to Gold Star families who have lost a hero, we hear a kindred spirit; another father of an American veteran; somebody whose faith has been tested, and who has been forced to wander through the darkness himself, and who knows who to lean on to find the light.

So that’s Joe Biden — a resilient, and loyal, and humble servant, and a patriot.  But most of all, a family man.  Starts with Jill, “Captain of the Vice Squad.”  (Laughter.)  Only the Second Lady in our history to keep her regular day job.  (Applause.)  Jill says, teaching isn’t what she does, it’s who she is.  A few days after Joe and I were inaugurated in 2009, she was back in the classroom teaching.  That’s why when our administration worked to strengthen community colleges, we looked to Jill to lead the way.

She’s also traveled the world to boost education and empowerment for women.  And as a Blue Star mom, her work with Michelle to honor our military families will go down in history as one of the most lasting and powerful efforts of this administration.

Of course, like Joe, Jill’s work is only part of the story.  She just seems to walk this Earth so lightly, spreads her joy so freely.  And she reminds us that although we’re in a serious business, we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously.  She’s quick with a laugh or a practical joke, disguising herself as a server at a party she once hosted — (laughter) –to liven the mood.  She once hid in the overhead compartment of Air Force 2 to scare the senior staff.  (Laughter.)  Because why not?  She seems to have a sixth sense of when to send a note of encouragement to a friend or a staffer, a simple thank you or a box of macaroons.
She is one of the best, most genuine people that I’ve met not just in politics, but in my entire life.  She is grounded, and caring, and generous, and funny, and that’s why Joe is proud to introduce himself as “Jill Biden’s husband.”  (Laughter.)

And to see them together is to see what real love looks like — through thick and thin, good times and bad.  It’s an all-American love story.  Jill once surprised Joe by painting hearts on his office windows for Valentine’s Day.

And then there are these Biden kids and grandkids.  They’re everywhere.  (Laughter.)  They’re all good-looking.  (Laughter.)  Hunter and Ashley, who lived out that family creed of raising good families and looking out for the least of our brothers and sisters.  Beau, who is watching over us with those broad shoulders and mighty heart himself — a man who left a beautiful legacy and inspired an entire nation.  Naomi, and Finn, and Maisy, and Natalie, and little Hunter — grandchildren who are the light of Joe’s eyes, and gives him an excuse to bust out the squirt gun around the pool.  (Laughter.)  This is the kind of family that built this country.

That’s why my family is so proud to call ourselves honorary Bidens.  (Laughter.)  As Yeats put it — because I had to quote an Irish poet, and Seamus Heaney was taken — (laughter) — “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

Away from the camera, Jill and Michelle have each other’s backs just as much as when they’re out championing our troops.  Our girls are close, best friends at school, inviting each other for vacations and sleepovers.  Even though our terms are nearly over, one of the greatest gifts of these past eight years is that we’re forever bonded as a family.

But, of course, I know that the Obamas are not the only ones who feel like they’re part of the Biden clan because Joe’s heart has radiated around this room.  You see it in the enduring friendships he’s forged with folks of every stripe and background up on Capitol Hill.  You see it in the way that his eyes light up when he finds somebody in a rope line from Scranton.  (Laughter.)  Or just the tiniest towns in Delaware.  (Laughter.)  You see it in the incredible loyalty of his staff, the team who knows that family always comes before work because Joe tells them so every day, the team that reflects their boss’s humble service.  Here in this building where there have been no turf wars between our staffs because everybody here has understood that we were all on the same mission and shared the same values, there has just been cooperation and camaraderie.  And that is rare.  It’s a testament to Joe and the tone that he’s set.

And finally, you see Joe’s heart in the way he consoles families, dealing with cancer, backstage after an event; when he meets kids fighting through a stutter of their own, he gives them his private phone number and keeps in touch with them long after.  To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully.

As one of his long-time colleagues in the Senate, who happened to be a Republican, once said, “If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you got a problem.  He’s as good a man as God ever created.”

So, Joe, for your faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country, and for your lifetime of service that will endure through the generations, I’d like to ask the military aide to join us on stage.

For the final time as President, I am pleased to award our nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.   (Applause.)

And for the first and only time in my presidency, I will bestow this medal with an additional level of veneration, an honor my three most recent successors reserved for only three others:  Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and General Colin Powell.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction to my brother, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.

Will the aide please read the citation.

MILITARY AIDE:  Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.  In a career of public service spanning nearly half a century, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., has left his mark on almost every part of our nation, fighting for a stronger middle class, a fairer judicial system and a smarter foreign policy; providing unyielding support for our troops; combatting crime and violence against women; leading our quest to cure cancer; and safeguarding the landmark American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from corruption.

With his charm, candor, unabashed optimism, and deep and abiding patriotism, Joe Biden has garnered the respect and esteem of colleagues of both parties, and the friendship of people across the nation and around the world.  While summoning the strength, faith and grace to overcome great personal tragedy, this son of Scranton, Claymont, and Wilmington has become one of the most consequential Vice Presidents in American history, an accolade that nonetheless rests firmly behind his legacy as husband, father, and grandfather.

A grateful nation thanks Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. for his lifetime of service on behalf of the United States of America.

(The Medal of Freedom is presented.)  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President.  (Applause.)  Please, please, thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please.  Thank you.

Ricchetti, you’re fired.  (Laughter.)  For the press, Ricchetti is my chief of staff.  (Laughter.)

I had no inkling.  I thought we were coming over, Michelle, to — for you, Jill, and Barack and I and a couple of senior staff to toast one another and say what an incredible journey it’s been.

Mr. President, you got right the part about my leaning on Jill.  But I’ve also leaned on you and a lot of people in this room.  I look around the room, and I see great friends like Ted Kaufman, who has been — has so much wisdom.  Guys like Mel Monzack.  I look around here and I’m startled.  I keep seeing people I don’t expect.  Madam President, how are you?  Mr. President, look at my new boss over there.  (Laughter.)

But you know, I get a lot of credit I don’t deserve, to state the obvious and — because I’ve always had somebody to lean on.  From back that time in 1972, when the accident happened, I leaned on — and I mean this in literal sense; Chris knows this — Dodd knows this, and Mel knows this, and Ted knows this — I leaned on my sons Beau and Hunter.  And I continue to lean on Hunter who continues to in a bizarre kind of way raise me.  I mean I’ve leaned on them.

And, Mr. President, you observed early on that when either one of my boys would walk in the room, they’d walk up and say, Dad, what can I get you?  Dad, what do you need?

And then Jill came along, and she saved our lives.  She — no man deserves one great love, let alone two.  And — but everybody knows here, I am Jill’s husband.  Everybody knows that I love her more than she loves me.  (Laughter.)  With good reason.  (Laughter.)  And she gave me the most precious gift, the love of my life, the life of my love, my daughter, Ashley.

And I continue to lean on the family.  Mr. President, you kidded me once.  You heard that the preparation for the two debates — vice presidential debates that I had — I only had two that Beau and Hunt would be the last people in the room.  And Beau would say, look at me, Dad.  Look at me.  Remember, remember home base.  Remember.

And the Secret Service can tell you, Mr. President, that Beau and Hunt and Ashley continue to have to corral me.  We were at one of the national parks, and I was climbing up on top of a bridge to jump off the bridge with a bunch of young kids.  And I hear my sons yelling, Dad, get down.  Now!  (Laughter.)  And I just started laughing so hard I couldn’t stop.  And I said, I was just going to do a flip — a full gainer off here.

He said, Dad, the Secret Service doesn’t want you up there.  Dad.  Look at me, Dad.  (Laughter.)

So we’ve never figured out who the father is in this family.  (Laughter.)

And, Mr. President, you know that with good reason there is no power in the vice presidency.  Matter of fact I just did for Nancy Pelosi’s daughter a reading of the Constitution.  You probably did one for her.  And they had me read the provisions relating to the vice presidency in the Constitution.  And there is no inherent power, nor should there be.

But, Mr. President, you have more than kept your commitment to me by saying that you wanted me to help govern.  The President’s line often — other people don’t hear it that often, but when someone would say, can you get Joe to do such and such.  He says, I don’t do his schedule.  He doesn’t do mine.

Every single thing you’ve asked me to do, Mr. President, you have trusted me to do.  And that is — that’s a remarkable thing.  I don’t think according to — I see the President of Georgetown here, as well.  I don’t think according to the presidential, vice presidential scholars that kind of relationship has existed. I mean, for real.  It’s all you, Mr. President.  It’s all you.

The reason why when you send me around the world, nothing gets — as my mom would say, gets missed between the cup and the lip, it’s because they know when I speak, I speak for you.

And it’s been easy, Mr. President, because we not only have the same political philosophy and ideology, I tell everybody — and I’ve told them from the beginning.  And I’m not saying this to reciprocate.  I’ve never known a President and few people I’ve ever met my whole life — I can count on less than one hand — who have had the integrity and the decency and the sense of other people’s needs like you do.

I know you were upset when I told the story about when Hunt and I were worried that Beau would have to — that he would, as a matter of honor, decide he had to step down as attorney general while he was fighting his battle because he had aphasia.  He was losing his ability to speak, and he didn’t want to ever be in a position where to him everything was about duty and honor.

And I said, and he may resign.  I don’t know I just have the feeling he may.  And Hunt and I had talked about this.  And I said, he doesn’t have any other income, but we’re all right because Hunt’s there, and I can sell the house.

We were having a private lunch like we do once a week.  And this man got up, came over, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said, don’t you sell that house.  You love that house.

I said, it’s no big deal, Mr. President.  He said, I’ll give you the money.  We’ll give you the money.  Promise me, promise me you won’t sell that house.

I remember when Ashley, Mr. President, we were in the Oval, and Ashley was in an elevator, and the elevator plummeted to the — she was with a group of people — I forget which building in Philadelphia, and it plummeted to the ground.  And immediately the Service was worried that she may have been badly hurt.  And I got up to take the call, and you didn’t let up until you made sure your service followed through and made sure everything was all right.

But you know, Mr. President, we kid about both about marrying up.  We both did, that kind of thing.  But the truth of the matter is — I said this to Michelle last night.  Michelle is the finest First Lady in my view that has ever served in the office.  There’s been other great First Ladies, but I really genuinely mean it.  (Applause.)

When I got to meet Michelle’s brother, and he told me about how you guys were raised, and I got to know and love your mom, if your mom — were your mom 15 years older, she could have been my mom.  Literally, the way you were raised, the way we were raised, there wasn’t any difference.  And I knew that this decision to join you, which was the greatest honor of my life, was the right decision on the night we had to go and accept the nomination, the formal — we’d be nominated at the convention.  And Finnegan, who is now 18 years old, was then 10 years old.  And she came to me, and she said, Pop, is it okay if the room that we’re in — Finnegan, Maisy, and Naomi — that we have the beds taken out.  And I said, why?  She said, maybe the Obama girls and your brothers’ children, maybe they would come down, all sleep together in sleeping bags.  (Laughter.)  And I give you my word as a Biden, I knew when I left to go to the convention, open that door, and saw them cuddled together, I knew this was the right decision.  I knew it was the right decision.  I really did.  Because, Mr. President, the same values set — the same values set.

Folks, you know, I joke with my staff that I don’t know why they pay them anything, because they get to advise me.  (Laughter.)  Let me explain what I mean by that.  As the President of the University of Delaware, where my heart resides, and my home campus of Delaware, as he can tell you, it’s — I get to give you advice.  I get to be the last guy in the room and give you advice on the most difficult decisions anyone has to make in the whole world.  But I get to walk out, and you make it all by yourself.  All by yourself.

Harry Truman was right about the buck stopping at the desk.  And I’ve never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never once doubted, on these life and death decisions, I never once doubted that your judgement was flawed — not once.  Not once.

And we’ve disagreed, and we’ve argued, and we’ve raised our voices, one of which we made a deal we’d be completely open like brothers with one another.  But, Mr. President, I watched you under intense fire.  I will venture to say that no President in history has had as many novel crises land on his desk in all of history.  The Civil War was worse, the World War Two was worse, but, Mr. President, almost every one of the crises you faced was a case of first instance — a case of first instance.  And I watched that prodigious mind and that heart as big as your head — I’ve watched you.  I’ve watched how you’ve acted.

When you see a woman or man under intense pressure, you get a measure — and you know that, Michelle, and your daughters know it, as well.  This is a remarkable man.  And I just hope that the asterisk in history that is attached to my name when they talk about this presidency is that I can say I was part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things for this country.  (Applause.)

You know, I can’t let a comment go by without quoting an Irish poet.  (Laughter.)  Jill and I talk about why you were able to develop the way you developed and with the heart you have.  Michelle and I have talked about it.  I’ve confided in Michelle, I’ve gone to her for advice.  We’ve talked about this man.  You give me insight.  And I think it’s because — Mr. President, you gave me credit for having understanding other people’s misery and suffering.  Mr. President, there is not one single, solitary ounce of entitlement in you, or Michelle, or your beautiful daughters — and you girls are incredible, you really are.  That’s not hyperbole, you really are.  Not one ounce of entitlement.

And Seamus Heaney in one of his poems said — (laughter) — when you can find someone who says it better, use it.  He said, you carried your own burden and very soon, your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.  You carried your own burdens, and very soon, the creeping symptoms of privilege disappeared.

Mr. President, you have sometimes been like a lone wolf, but you carried yourself in a way that’s pretty remarkable.  The history of the journey — your journey — is something people are going to write about a long time, and I’m not being solicitous when I say this.  And you’re so fortunate, both of you, to have found each other because all that grounding, all that you have, made this guy totally whole.  And it’s pretty amazing.

Mr. President, this honor is not only well beyond what I deserve, but it’s a reflection on the extent and generosity of your spirit.  I don’t deserve this, but I know it came from the President’s heart.  There is a Talmudic saying that says, what comes from the heart, enters the heart.  Mr. President, you have creeped into our heart — you and your whole family, including Mom — and you occupy it.  It’s an amazing thing that happened.  I knew how smart you were.  I knew how honorable you were.  I knew how decent you were from the couple years we worked in the Senate, and I knew what you were capable of.  But I never fully expected that you’d occupy the Bidens’ heart, from Hunter, to Ashley, my sister, all of us.  All of us.

And Mr. President, I’m indebted to you.  I’m indebted to your friendship, I’m indebted to your family, and as I’ll tell you — I’ll end on a humorous note.  We’re having a lunch — lunches, and mostly it’s what’s ever in either one of our minds.  We’ll talk about family an awful lot.  And about six months in, President looks at me, he said, you know, Joe, you know what surprised me?  How we’ve become such good friends.  (Laughter.)  And I said, surprised you?  (Laughter.)

But that is candid Obama, and it’s real, and, Mr. President, you know as long as there’s a breath in me, I’ll be there for you, my whole family will be, and I know, I know it is reciprocal.  And I want to thank you all so very, very, very much.  All of you in here.  (Applause.)

END
4:27 P.M. EST

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 11, 2017: President-elect Donald Trump’s First Press Conference after Election

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION:

President-elect Donald Trump’s First Press Conference after Election

Source: Time, 1-11-17

SPICER: Morning. Thanks for being here (ph). (inaudible) days away from the inauguration of the next president and vice president of the United States. It’s an opportunity to be here today to allow the president-elect to take your questions.

After the president-elect makes some remarks, he will introduce Ms. Sheri Dillon, a prominent attorney in Washington, D.C. with the prestigious firm of Morgan Lewis who will — who structured the agreements pursuant to the president’s business arrangements and she will give brief remarks.

Before we start, I want to bring your attention to a few points on the report that was published in BuzzFeed last night. It’s frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible for a left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the president-elect’s campaign to drop highly salacious and flat out false information on the internet just days before he takes the oath of office.

According to BuzzFeed’s own editor, there are some serious reasons to doubt the allegations in the report. The executive editor of the New York Times also dismissed the report by saying it was, quote, “Totally unsubstantiated, echoing the concerns that many other reporters expressed on the internet.”

SPICER: The fact that BuzzFeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks. The report is not an intelligence report, plain and simple. One issue that the report talked about was the relationship of three individuals associated with the campaign. These three individuals; Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and Carter Page.

Carter Page is an individual who the president-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign. Paul Manafort has adamantly denied any of this involvement and Michael Cohen, who is said to have visited Prague in August and September did not leave or enter the United States during this time. We asked him to produce his passport to confirm his whereabouts on the dates in question and there was no doubt that he was not in Prague.

In fact, Mr. Cohen has never been in Prague. A new report actually suggests that Michael Cohen was at — at the University of Southern California with his son at a baseball game. One report now suggested apparently it’s another Michael Cohen. For all the talk lately about fake news, this political witch hunt by some in the media is based on some of the most flimsy reporting and is frankly shameful and disgraceful.

With that, it is my honor to introduce the next vice president of the United States, Mike Pence.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: We are nine days away from the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

I am profoundly honored and humbled that I will take the oath of office to serve as vice president of the United States nine days from today, but I’m even more honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with a new president who will make America great again.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, the president-elect’s leadership and his energy during the campaign was impressive. But as the Chairman of the transition effort, I can assure the American people that his energy and his vision during the course of this transition has been even more inspiring. To see the way he has brought together men and women of extraordinary capability at a historic pace in this cabinet.

Nineteen of the 21 Cabinet officials have been announced, nine committee hearings already scheduled, seven more soon to go on the books in the next several days and it is a — it is a compilation of men and women with an unprecedented caliber of leadership and background to help this administration move our nation forward. Perhaps that’s why there’s been such a concerted effort by some in the mainstream media to delegitimize this election and to demean our incoming administration.

You know, I have long been a supporter of a free and independent press and I always will be. But with freedom comes responsibility. And the irresponsible decision of a few news organizations to run with a false and unsubstantiated report, when most news organizations resisted the temptation to propagate this fake news, can only be attributed to media bias and attempt to demean the president-elect and our incoming administration and the American people are sick and tired of it.

(APPLAUSE)

But today, we’ll get back to real news, to real facts and the real progress our incoming president has already made in reviving the American economy and assembling a team that will make America great again. And we’ll hear from the president-elect about issues that are of paramount importance to the American people today.

So, it is my honor to introduce to all of you, my friend and the president-elect of the United States of America, Donald Trump.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

It’s very familiar territory, news conferences, because we used to give them on a almost daily basis. I think we probably maybe won the nomination because of news conferences and it’s good to be with you.

TRUMP: We stopped giving them because we were getting quite a bit of inaccurate news, but I do have to say that — and I must say that I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies? Who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that. A tremendous blot, because a thing like that should have never been written, it should never have been had and it should certainly never been released.

But I want to thank a lot of the news organizations for some of whom have not treated me very well over the years — a couple in particular — and they came out so strongly against that fake news and the fact that it was written about by primarily one group and one television station.

So, I just want to compliment many of the people in the room. I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press and all of that. But I will tell you, there were some news organizations with all that was just said that were so professional — so incredibly professional, that I’ve just gone up a notch as to what I think of you. OK?

All right. We’ve had some great news over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been quite active, I guess you could say, in an economic way for the country. A lot of car companies are going to be moving in, we have other companies — big news is going to be announced over the next couple of weeks about companies that are getting building in the Midwest.

You saw yesterday Fiat Chrysler; big, big factory going to be built in this country as opposed to another country. Ford just announced that they stopped plans for a billion dollar plant in Mexico and they’re going to be moving into Michigan and expanding, very substantially, an existing plant.

I appreciate that from Ford. I appreciate it very much from Fiat Chrysler. I hope that General Motors will be following and I think they will be. I think a lot of people will be following. I think a lot of industries are going to be coming back.

We’ve got to get our drug industry back. Our drug industry has been disastrous. They’re leaving left and right. They supply our drugs, but they don’t make them here, to a large extent. And the other thing we have to do is create new bidding procedures for the drug industry because they’re getting away with murder.

Pharma, pharma has a lot of lobbies and a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power and there’s very little bidding on drugs. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly and we’re going to start bidding and we’re going to save billions of dollars over a period of time.

And we’re going to do that with a lot of other industries. I’m very much involved with the generals and admirals on the airplane, the F-35, you’ve been reading about it. And it’s way, way behind schedule and many, many billions of dollars over budget. I don’t like that. And the admirals have been fantastic, the generals have been fantastic. I’ve really gotten to know them well. And we’re going to do some big things on the F-35 program, and perhaps the F-18 program. And we’re going to get those costs way down and we’re going to get the plane to be even better. And we’re going to have some competition and it’s going to be a beautiful thing.

So, we’ve been very, very much involved, and other things. We had Jack Ma, we had so many incredible people coming here. There are no — they’re going to do tremendous things — tremendous things in this country. And they’re very excited.

And I will say, if the election didn’t turn out the way it turned out, they would not be here. They would not be in my office. They would not be in anybody else’s office. They’d be building and doing things in other countries. So, there’s a great spirit going on right now. A spirit that many people have told me they’ve never seen before, ever.

We’re going to create jobs. I said that I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created. And I mean that, I really — I’m going to work very hard on that. We need certain amounts of other things, including a little bit of luck, but I think we’re going to do a real job. And I’m very proud of what we’ve done.

And we haven’t even gotten there yet. I look very much forward to the inauguration. It’s going to be a beautiful event. We have great talent, tremendous talent. And we have the — all of the bands — or most of the bands are from the different — from the different segments of the military. And I’ve heard some of these bands over the years, they’re incredible.

We’re going to have a very, very elegant day. The 20th is going to be something that will be very, very special; very beautiful. And I think we’re going to have massive crowds because we have a movement.

TRUMP: It’s a movement like the world has never seen before. It’s a movement that a lot of people didn’t expect. And even the polls — although some of them did get it right, but many of them didn’t. And that was a beautiful scene on November 8th as those states started to pour in.

And we focused very hard in those states and they really reciprocated. And those states are gonna have a lot of jobs and they’re gonna have a lot of security. They’re going to have a lot of good news for their veterans.

And by the way, speaking of veterans, I appointed today the head secretary of the Veterans Administration, David Shulkin. And we’ll do a news release in a little while. Tell you about David, he’s fantastic — he’s fantastic. He will do a truly great job.

One of the commitments I made is that we’re gonna straighten out the whole situation for our veterans. Our veterans have been treated horribly. They’re waiting in line for 15, 16, 17 days, cases where they go in and they have a minor early-stage form of cancer and they can’t see a doctor. By the time they get to the doctor, they’re terminal. Not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen.

So, David is going to do a fantastic job. We’re going to be talking to a few people also to help David. And we have some of the great hospitals of the world going to align themselves with us on the Veterans Administration, like the Cleveland Clinic, like the Mayo Clinic, a few more than we have. And we’re gonna set up a — a group.

These are hospitals that have been the top of the line, the absolute top of the line. And they’re going to get together with their great doctors — Dr. Toby Cosgrove, as you know from the Cleveland Clinic, has been very involved.

Ike Perlmutter has been very, very involved, one of the great men of business. And we’re gonna straighten out the V.A. for our veterans. I’ve been promising that for a long time and it’s something I feel very, very strongly.

So, you’ll get the information on David. And I think you’ll be very impressed with the job he does. We looked long and hard. We interviewed at least 100 people, some good, some not so good. But we had a lot of talent. And we think this election will be something that will, with time — with time, straighten it out and straighten it out for good ’cause our veterans have been treated very unfairly.

OK, questions? Yes, John (ph)?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) so much.

TRUMP: Thank you.

QUESTION: Appreciate it.

A couple of aspects of the intelligence briefing that you received on Friday that we’re looking for further clarification on.

TRUMP: Sure.

QUESTION: First of all, did the heads of the intelligence agencies provide you with the two-page summary of these unsubstantiated allegations? And secondly to that, on the broader picture, do you accept their opinion that Vladimir Putin ordered the hack of the DNC and the attempted hack of the RNC?

And if you do, how will that color your attempts to build a relationship with a leader who has been accused of committing an act of espionage against the United States?

TRUMP: OK, first of all, these readings as you know are confidential, classified. So, I’m not allowed to talk about what went on in a meeting.

And — but we had many witnesses in that meeting, many of them with us. And I will say, again, I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out.

I saw the information; I read the information outside of that meeting. It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours, as you know, because you reported it and so did many of the other people. It was a group of opponents that got together — sick people — and they put that crap together.

So, I will tell you that not within the meeting, but outside of the meeting, somebody released it. It should have never been — number one, shouldn’t have even entered paper. But it should have never have been released. But I read what was released and I think it’s a disgrace. I think it’s an absolute disgrace.

As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people. And I — I can say that you know when — when we lost 22 million names and everything else that was hacked recently, they didn’t make a big deal out of that. That was something that was extraordinary. That was probably China.

We had — we had much hacking going on. And one of the things we’re gonna do, we have some of the greatest computer minds anywhere in the world that we’ve assembled. You saw just a sample of it two weeks ago up here where we had the six top people in the world — they were never in the same room together as a group. And we’re gonna put those minds together and we’re going to form a defense.

TRUMP: And I have to say this also, the Democratic National Committee was totally open to be hacked. They did a very poor job. They could’ve had hacking defense, which we had.

And I will give Reince Priebus credit, because when Reince saw what was happening in the world and with this country, he went out and went to various firms and ordered a very, very strong hacking defense.

And they tried to hack the Republican National Committee and they were unable to break through.

We have to do that for our country. It’s very important.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … just to the last part of that question (inaudible) how could all of this potentially color your attempts to build a better relationship with President Putin?

TRUMP: Well, you know, President Putin and Russia put out a statement today that this fake news was indeed fake news. They said it totally never happened.

Now, somebody would say, “Oh, of course he’s gonna say that.”

I respected the fact that he said that.

And I — I’ll be honest, I think if he did have something, they would’ve released it; they would’ve been glad to release it.

I think, frankly, had they broken into the Republican National Committee, I think they would’ve released it just like they did about Hillary and all of the horrible things that her people, like Mr. Podesta, said about her. I mean what he said about her was horrible.

If somebody said about me, what Podesta said about Hillary, I was the boss, I would’ve fired him immediately or that person. Because what he said about her was horrible.

But remember this: We talk about the hacking and hacking’s bad and it shouldn’t be done. But look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking.

That Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it? That’s a horrible thing. That’s a horrible thing.

Can you imagine that if Donald Trump got the questions to the debate — it would’ve been the biggest story in the history of stories. And they would’ve said immediately, “You have to get out of the race.” Nobody even talked about it. It’s a very terrible thing.

Yeah?

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question, sir?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect.

On that intelligence report, the second part of their conclusion was that Vladimir Putin ordered it because he aspired to help you in the election.

Do you accept that part of the finding? And will you undo what President Obama did to punish the Russians for this or will you keep it in place?

TRUMP: Well, if — if Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia. Russia can help us fight ISIS, which, by the way, is, number one, tricky. I mean if you look, this administration created ISIS by leaving at the wrong time. The void was created, ISIS was formed.

If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That’s called an asset, not a liability.

Now, I don’t know that I’m gonna get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do. But there’s a good chance I won’t. And if I don’t, do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break.

OK?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … President Obama…

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … make clear whether during your visits to either Moscow or St. Petersburg, you engaged in conduct that you now regret and that a reasonable…

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Would a reasonable observer say that you are potentially vulnerable to blackmail by Russia or by its intelligence agencies?

TRUMP: Lemme just tell you what I do.

When I leave our country, I’m a very high-profile person, would you say?

I am extremely careful. I’m surrounded by bodyguards. I’m surrounded by people.

And I always tell them — anywhere, but I always tell them if I’m leaving this country, “Be very careful, because in your hotel rooms and no matter where you go, you’re gonna probably have cameras.” I’m not referring just to Russia, but I would certainly put them in that category.

And number one, “I hope you’re gonna be good anyway. But in those rooms, you have cameras in the strangest places. Cameras that are so small with modern technology, you can’t see them and you won’t know. You better be careful, or you’ll be watching yourself on nightly television.”

I tell this to people all the time.

I was in Russia years ago, with the Miss Universe contest, which did very well — Moscow, the Moscow area did very, very well.

And I told many people, “Be careful, because you don’t wanna see yourself on television. Cameras all over the place.”

And again, not just Russia, all over.

Does anyone really believe that story?

I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me. (LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … how you plan to disentangle yourself from your business. But first, I have to follow-up on some of these Russian remarks.

Based on your comments here today, do you believe the hacking was justified? Does Russia have any leverage over you, financial or otherwise? And if not, will you release your tax returns to prove it?

TRUMP: So I tweeted out that I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.

As a real estate developer, I have very, very little debt. I have assets that are — and now people have found out how big the company is, I have very little debt — I have very low debt. But I have no loans with Russia at all.

And I thought that was important to put out. I certified that. So I have no deals, I have no loans and I have no dealings. We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to, I just don’t want to because I think that would be a conflict. So I have no loans, no dealings, and no current pending deals.

Now, I have to say one other thing. Over the weekend, I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man, a great, great developer from the Middle East, Hussein Damack, a friend of mine, great guy. And I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai — a number of deals and I turned it down.

I didn’t have to turn it down, because as you know, I have a no-conflict situation because I’m president, which is — I didn’t know about that until about three months ago, but it’s a nice thing to have. But I don’t want to take advantage of something. I have something that others don’t have, Vice President Pence also has it. I don’t think he’ll need it, I have a feeling he’s not going to need it.

But I have a no conflict of interest provision as president. It was many, many years old, this is for presidents. Because they don’t want presidents getting — I understand they don’t want presidents getting tangled up in minutia; they want a president to run the country. So I could actually run my business, I could actually run my business and run government at the same time.

I don’t like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to. I would be the only one to be able to do that. You can’t do that in any other capacity. But as president, I could run the Trump organization, great, great company, and I could run the company — the country. I’d do a very good job, but I don’t want to do that.

Now, all of these papers that you see here — yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: (inaudible) do you believe the hacking was justified? And will you release your tax returns to prove what you’re saying about no deals in Russia?

TRUMP: I’m not releasing the tax returns because as you know, they’re under audit.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … since the ’70’s has had a required audit from the IRS, the last place to release them, but as president sir…

TRUMP: You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only who ask.

QUESTION: You don’t think the American public is concerned about it?

TRUMP: No I don’t think so. I won, when I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I think you care — I think you care. First of all, you learn very little to a tax return. What you should go down to federal elections and take a look at the numbers. And actually, people have learned a lot about my company and now they realize, my company is much bigger, much more powerful than they ever thought. We’re in many, many countries, and I’m very proud of it.

And what I’m going to be doing is my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company. They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They’re not going to discuss it with me. Again, I don’t have to do this. They’re not going to discuss it with me. And with that, I’m going to bring up Sheri Dillon, and she’s going to go — these papers are just some of the many documents that I’ve signed turning over complete and total control to my sons.

(CROSSTALK)

DILLON: Good morning. It’s my honor and privilege to be here today at President-elect Trump’s request.

He’s asked me, as you just heard, to speak about the conflicts of interest and the steps he’s taking. As you know, the business empire built by President-elect Trump over the years is massive, not dissimilar to the fortunes of Nelson Rockefeller when he became vice president. But at that time, no one was so concerned.

President-elect Trump wants the American public to rest assured that all of his efforts are directed to pursuing the people’s business and not his own. To that end, as he explained a few moments ago, he directed me and my colleagues at the law firm Morgan Lewis and Bockius to design a structure for his business empire that will completely isolate him from the management of the company.

He further instructed that we build in protections that will assure the American people the decisions he makes and the actions that he takes as president are for their benefit and not to support his financial interests.

DILLON: As he said, he’s voluntarily taking this on. The conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president or the vice president and they are not required to separate themselves from their financial assets. The primary conflicts of interest statutes and some have questioned it, is Section 18 USC 208 and it’s simply inapplicable by its terms. And this is not just our interpretation. It’s Congress itself who have made this clear in 1989 when it amended Section 18 USC 202 to state that, except as otherwise provided, the terms office and employee in section 208 shall not include the president.

Even so, President-elect Trump wants there to be no doubt in the minds of the American public that he is completely isolating himself from his business interests. He instructed us to take all steps realistically possible to make it clear that he is not exploiting the office of the presidency for his personal benefit. He also sought the guidance of individuals who are familiar with and have worked extensively in the fields of government ethics and constitutional law.

Critical to the Morgan Lewis team is Fred Fielding, standing here to our side and with us today and many of you have known him. He has served several presidents over the years including serving as counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush as well as serving on President George H.W. Bush’s Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform and he also held the position of vice chair of the Ethics Resource Center.

Mr. Fielding has been extensively involved with and approved this plan. He’s here today to support the plan and he will continue to provide guidance as the plan is implemented and as Eric, Don, along with others, take over management of the Trump organization.

I’m gonna detail some of the extraordinary steps now that the president-elect is taking. First, President-elect Trump’s investments and business assets commonly known as the — as the Trump Organization, comprising hundreds of entities which, again, if you all go and take a look at his financial disclosure statement, the pages and pages and pages of entities have all been or will be conveyed to a trust prior to January 20th. Here is just some of the paperwork that’s taking care of those actions.

Second, through the trust agreement, he has relinquished leadership and management of the Trump Organization to his sons Don and Eric and a longtime Trump executive, Allen Weisselberg. Together, Don, Eric and Allen will have the authority to manage the Trump Organization and will make decisions for the duration of the presidency without any involvement whatsoever by President-elect Trump.

Further, at the president-elect’s direction, the trust agreement provides — that to ensure the Trump Organization continues to operate in accordance with the highest and legal ethics standards, an ethics adviser will be appointed to the management team. The written approval of the ethics adviser will be required for new deals, actions, and transactions that could potentially raise ethics or conflicts of interest concerns.

President-elect Trump as well as Don, Eric and Allen are committed to ensuring that the activities of the Trump organization are beyond reproach and cannot be perceived to be exploitive of the office of the presidency. President-elect Trump will resign from all officer and other positions he holds with the Trump Organization entities.

Further, in addition, his daughter Ivanka will have no further involvement with or management authority whatsoever with the Trump Organization. As she and Jared move their family to D.C., Ivanka will focused on settling her children into their new homes and their new schools.

The president-elect has also already disposed of all of his investments in publicly traded or easily liquidated investments. As a result, the trust will have two types of assets; first, it will hold liquid assets. Cash, cash equivalents and treasuries and perhaps some positions in a government approved diversified portfolio, one that is consistent with the regulations from the Office of Government Ethics.

Second, the trust is going to hold his preexisting illiquid, but very valuable business assets, the ones that everyone here is familiar with. Trump owned, operated and branded golf clubs, commercial rental property, resorts, hotels, rights to royalties from preexisting licenses of Trump-Marks Productions and Goods. Things like Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, all of his other business assets, 40 Wall Street will all be in the trust.

Through instructions in the trust agreement, President-elect trust — President-elect Trump first ordered that all pending deals be terminated. This impacted more than 30 deals, many of which were set to close by the end of 2016. As you can well imagine, that caused an immediate financial loss of millions of dollars, not just for President-elect Trump, but also for Don, Ivanka and Eric.

DILLON: The trust agreement as directed by President Trump imposes severe restrictions on new deals. No new foreign deals will be made whatsoever during the duration of President Trump’s presidency. New domestic deals will be allowed, but they will go through a vigorous vetting process.

The president-elect will have no role in deciding whether the Trump Organization engages in any new deal and he will only know of a deal if he reads it in the paper or sees it on TV. Because any new deal could — and I emphasize could — be perceived as causing a conflict or as exploiting the office of the presidency, new deals must be vetted with the ethics adviser, whose role will be to analyze any potential transactions for conflicts and ethics issues.

The ethics adviser will be a recognized expert in the field of government experts. Again, his role will be to scrutinize the new deals and the actions, and any new deal must receive written approval.

To further reinforce the wall that we are building between President-elect Trump and the Trump Organization, President-elect Trump has ordered, through his trust agreement, to sharply limit his information rights. Reports will only be available and reflect profit and loss on the company as a whole. There will be no separate business by business accounting.

Another step that President-elect Trump has taken is he created a new position at the Trump Organization; the position of chief compliance counsel, whose responsibility will be to ensure that the Trump businesses, again, are operating at the highest levels of integrity and not taking any actions that could be perceived as exploiting the office of the presidency. He has also directed that no communications of the Trump Organization, including social media accounts, will reference or be tied to President-elect Trump’s role as president of the United States or the office of the presidency.

In sum, all of these actions — complete relinquishment of management, no foreign deals, ethics adviser approval of deals, sharply limited information rights — will sever President-elect Trump’s presidency from the Trump Organization.

Some have asked questions. Why not divest? Why not just sell everything? Form of blind trust. And I’d like to turn to addressing some of those questions now.

Selling, first and foremost, would not eliminate possibilities of conflicts of interest. In fact, it would exacerbate them. The Trump brand is key to the value of the Trump Organization’s assets. If President-elect Trump sold his brand, he would be entitled to royalties for the use of it, and this would result in the trust retaining an interest in the brand without the ability to assure that it does not exploit the office of the presidency.

Further, whatever price was paid would be subject to criticism and scrutiny. Was it too high, is there pay for play, was it too much pay to curry favor with the president-elect. And selling his assets without the rights to the brand would greatly diminish the value of the assets and create a fire sale.

President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built. This plan offers a suitable alternative to address the concerns of the American people, and selling the entire Trump Organization isn’t even feasible.

Some people have suggested that the president-elect sell the business to his adult children. This would require massive third-party debt sourced with multiple lenders, whose motives and willingness to participate would be questioned and undoubtedly investigated. And if the president-elect were to finance the sale himself, he would retain the financial interests in the assets that he owns now.

Some people have suggested that the Trump — that President-elect Trump could bundle the assets and turn the Trump Organization into a public company. Anyone who has ever gone through this extraordinarily cumbersome and complicated process knows that it is a non-starter. It is not realistic and it would be inappropriate for the Trump Organization.

Some people have suggested a blind trust, but you cannot have a totally blind trust with operating businesses. President Trump can’t unknow he owns Trump Tower and the press will make sure that any new developments at the Trump Organization are well publicized.

DILLON: Further, it would be impossible to find an institutional trustee that would be competent to run the Trump Organization. The approach that he is taking allows Don and Eric to preserve this great company and its iconic assets. And this approach is best from a conflicts and ethics perspective. It creates a complete separation from President-elect Trump — it separates him and prevents him from participating in the business and poses strict limits on what the trustees can do and requires the assent of any ethics adviser to a new deal.

I’m going to turn to one last topic today that has been of interest lately called emoluments. That’s a word I think we’ve all become familiar with and perhaps had not heard before.

And we’re gonna describe some other actions that President-elect Trump is taking to avoid even the appearance of a conflict.

Emoluments comes from the Constitution. The Constitution says “officials may not accept gifts, titles of nobility, or emoluments from foreign governments with respect to their office, and that no benefit should be derived by holding in office.”

The so-called Emoluments Clause has never been interpreted, however, to apply to fair value exchanges that have absolutely nothing to do with an office holder.

No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument. Instead, it would have been thought of as a value-for-value exchange; not a gift, not a title, and not an emolument.

But since President-elect Trump has been elected, some people want to define emoluments to cover routine business transactions like paying for hotel rooms. They suggest that the Constitution prohibits the businesses from even arm’s-length transactions that the president-elect has absolutely nothing to do with and isn’t even aware of.

These people are wrong. This is not what the Constitution says. Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present and it has nothing to do with an office. It’s not an emolument.

The Constitution does not require President-elect Trump to do anything here. But, just like with conflicts of interests, he wants to do more than what the Constitution requires.

So, President-elect Trump has decided, and we are announcing today, that he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the United States Treasury. This way, it is the American people who will profit.

In sum, I and president-elect’s (sic) other advisers at Morgan Lewis have determined the approach we’ve outlined today will avoid potential conflicts of interests or concerns regarding exploitation of the office of the presidency without imposing unnecessary and unreasonable loses on the president-elect and his family.

We believe this structure and these steps will serve to accomplish the president-elect’s desire to be isolated from his business interests and give the American people confidence that his sole business and interest is in making America great again, bringing back jobs to this country, securing our borders and rebuilding our infrastructure.

The American people were well — well aware of President-elect Trump’s business empire and financial interests when they voted. Many people voted for him precisely because of his business success.

President-elect Trump wants to bring this success to all Americans. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

DILLON: You’re welcome. My pleasure. Yes (ph). Don’t want to lose your note. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Here you go, you (ph).

DILLON: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Trump? Thank you. Mr. Trump, (inaudible) from America News.

What is your response to your critics that say not only you, but also your Cabinet is filled with conflicts of interest?

And do you plan to set an example in the future to make sure that your — your Cabinet and everyone throughout your administration…

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I — I really think that when you watch what’s going on with what’s happening in — I was just watching, as an example, Rex Tillerson. I think it’s brilliant what he’s doing and what he’s saying.

I watched yesterday, as you know, our great senator, who is going to be a great attorney general. And he was brilliant. And what people don’t know is that he was a great prosecutor and attorney general in Alabama. And he was brilliant yesterday.

So, I really think that they are — I think we have one of the great Cabinets ever put together. And we’ve been hearing that from so many people. People are so happy.

You know, in the case of Rex, he ran incredibly Exxon Mobil. When there was a find, he would get it. When they needed something, he would be there.

A friend of mine who’s very, very substantial in the oil business, Harold Hamm — big supporter — he said there’s nobody in the business like Rex Tillerson.

And that’s what we want. That’s what I want to bring to government.

I want to bring the greatest people into government, because we’re way behind. We don’t make good deals any more. I say it all the time in speeches. We don’t make good deals anymore; we make bad deals. Our trade deals are a disaster.

TRUMP: We have hundreds of billions of dollars of losses on a yearly basis — hundreds of billions with China on trade and trade imbalance, with Japan, with Mexico, with just about everybody. We don’t make good deals anymore.

So we need people that are smart, we need people that are successful and they got successful because generally speaking, they’re smart. And that’s what I’d put, I’m very proud of the Cabinet, I think they’re doing very well.

It’s very interesting how it’s going, but it’s — I think they’re doing very, very well.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … a quick follow-up on — on Russia, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. I wanted to ask a few questions on Obamacare?

TRUMP: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you be specific on what guidance you’re giving congressional Republicans on the timeline for repeal and replace, whether it needs to be simultaneous or…

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Finally, Obamacare, I thought it was never gonna be asked.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) though if you have outlined a plan for what you want the replace package to look like, would it guarantee coverage for those who have gotten health insurance through the current Obamacare law?

TRUMP: You’re gonna be very, very proud, as not only the media and reporters, you’re gonna be very proud of what we put forth having to do with health care. Obamacare is a complete and total disaster.

They can say what they want, they can guide you anyway they wanna guide you. In some cases, they guide you incorrectly. In most cases, you realize what’s happened, it’s imploding as we sit.

Some states have over a hundred percent increase and ’17 and I said this two years ago, ’17 is going to be the bad year. It’s going to be catastrophic. Frankly, we could sit back and it was a thought from a political standpoint, but it wouldn’t be fair to the people.

We could sit back and wait and watch and criticize and we could be a Chuck Schumer and sit back and criticize it and people would come, they would come, begging to us please, we have to do something about Obamacare. We don’t wanna own it, we don’t wanna own it politically. They own it right now.

So the easiest thing would be to let it implode in ’17 and believe me, we’d get pretty much whatever we wanted, but it would take a long time. We’re going to be submitting, as soon as our secretary’s approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan.

It’ll be repeal and replace. It will be essentially, simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably, the same day, could be the same hour.

So we’re gonna do repeal and replace, very complicated stuff. And we’re gonna get a health bill passed, we’re gonna get health care taken care of in this country. You have deductibles that are so high, that after people go broke paying their premiums which are going through the roof, the health care can’t even be used by them because their deductibles bills are so high.

Obamacare is the Democrats problem. We are gonna take the problem off the shelves for them. We’re doing them a tremendous service by doing it. We could sit back and let them hang with it. We are doing the Democrats a great service.

So as soon as our secretary is approved and gets into the office, we’ll be filing a plan. And it was actually, pretty accurately reported today, The New York Times. And the plan will be repeal and replace Obamacare.

We’re going to have a health care that is far less expensive and far better. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: President-elect, can we just ask you — sir, sir…

QUESTION: President-elect Trump…

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. President — which one?

TRUMP: I was going right here.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: President-elect Trump, Jon Steinberg (ph) from Cheddar. When you look at all the meetings that you’ve had with Carrier, SoftBank and Alibaba, do you conceive of making this a program, maybe sitting inside of commerce?

And then my follow-up question to that, is how soon will we see the program on capital repatriation and corporate tax cuts?

TRUMP: Well, if I can save jobs, for instance I was doing individual companies and people said well, that’s only one company, like we did a good job with Carrier. And I wanna thank United Technologies which owns Carrier, but we saved close to a thousand jobs.

And they were gone and Mike Pence and his staff really helped us, a lot. But those were — that was a tough one because they announced a year and a half before that they were leaving so it’s always tough when they’re building a plan, just a little tougher than before they start or before they make an announcement.

TRUMP: So I wanna thank United Technologies. But we’ve been meeting with a lot of companies. But what really is happening, is the word is now out, that when you want to move your plant to Mexico or some other place, and you want to fire all of your workers from Michigan and Ohio and all these places that I won, for good reason, it’s not going to happen that way anymore.

You want to move your plant and you think, as an example, you’re going to build that plant in Mexico and you’re going to make your air conditioners or your cars or whatever you’re making, and you’re going to sell it through what will be a very, very strong border — not a weak border like it is — we don’t even have a border. It’s an open sieve.

But you’re going to sell through a very strong border — not going to happen. You’re going to pay a very large border tax. So if you want to move to another country and if you want to fire all of our great American workers that got you there in the first place, you can move from Michigan to Tennessee and to North Carolina and South Carolina. You can move from South Carolina back to Michigan.

You can do anywhere — you’ve got a lot of states at play; a lot of competition. So it’s not like, oh, gee, I’m taking the competition away. You’ve got a lot of places you can move. And I don’t care, as along as it’s within the United States, the borders of the United States.

There will be a major border tax on these companies that are leaving and getting away with murder. And if our politicians had what it takes, they would have done this years ago. And you’d have millions more workers right now in the United States that are — 96 million really wanting a job and they can’t get. You know that story. The real number — that’s the real number.

So, that’s the way it is. OK. Go ahead.

QUESTION: President-elect, I have a question about the Supreme Court and border security. But I also wanted to ask you about something you said on Twitter this morning. Are we living in Nazi Germany? What were you driving at there? Do you have a problem with the intelligence community?

And on the Supreme Court, what’s your timeline? You said a while ago you were down to four. Have you conducted those interviews yet? What’s your timeline for nominating?

And on the border fence, it now appears clear U.S. taxpayers will have to pay for it up front. What is your plan to…

TRUMP: That’s not clear at all. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … to get Mexico to pay for it?

TRUMP: I’ve got it. Do you have any more?

(LAUGHTER)

On the fence — it’s not a fence. It’s a wall. You just misreported it. We’re going to build a wall. I could wait about a year-and-a-half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which will start immediately after we get to office, but I don’t want to wait. Mike Pence is leading an effort to get final approvals through various agencies and through Congress for the wall to begin.

I don’t feel like waiting a year or a year-and-a-half. We’re going to start building. Mexico in some form, and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. That will happen, whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment — probably less likely that it’s a payment. But it will happen.

So, remember this, OK? I would say we are going to build a wall and people would go crazy. I would then say, who is going to pay for the wall? And people would all scream out — 25,000, 30,000 people, because nobody has ever had crowds like Trump has had. You know that. You don’t like to report that, but that’s OK.

OK, now he agrees. Finally, he agrees.

But I say who is going to pay for the wall? And they will scream out, “Mexico.”

Now, reports went out last week — oh, Mexico is not going to pay for the wall because of a reimbursement. What’s the difference? I want to get the wall started. I don’t want to wait a year-and-a-half until I make my deal with Mexico. And we probably will have a deal sooner than that.

And by the way, Mexico has been so nice, so nice. I respect the government of Mexico. I respect the people of Mexico. I love the people of Mexico. I have many people from Mexico working for me. They’re phenomenal people.

The government of Mexico is terrific. I don’t blame them for what’s happened. I don’t blame them for taking advantage of the United States. I wish our politicians were so smart. Mexico has taken advantage of the United States. I don’t blame the representatives and various presidents, et cetera, of Mexico. What I say is we shouldn’t have allowed that to happen. It’s not going to happen anymore.

So, in order to get the wall started, Mexico will pay for the wall, but it will be reimbursed. OK?

Supreme Court judge. So, as you know, I have a list of 20. I’ve gone through them. We’ve met with numerous candidates. They’re outstanding in every case. They were largely recommended and highly recommended by Federalist Society. Jim DeMint was also very much involved, and his group, which is fantastic, and he’s a fantastic guy.

TRUMP: So between Leo and Jim DeMint and some senators and some congresspeople, we have a great group of people. I’ll be making the decision on who we will put up for justice of the United States Supreme Court, a replacement for the great, great Justice Scalia. That will be probably within two weeks of the 20th. So within about two weeks, probably the second week. I consider the first day because we’ll also be doing some — some pretty good signings and I think what we’ll do is we’ll wait until Monday.

That will be our really first business day as opposed to doing it on Friday, because on Friday, people are going to have a very good time at the inauguration, and then Saturday, as you know, we’re having a big church service and lots of good things are happening. So our first day — and you’ll all be invited to the signings, but we’ll be doing some pretty good signings on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, and then also the next week. And you’re all invited.

But on the Supreme Court, I’ll be making that decision, and it will be a decision which I very strongly believe in. I think it’s one of the reasons I got elected. I think the people of this country did not want to see what was happening with the Supreme Court, so I think it was a very, very big decision as to why I was elected.

QUESTION: The tweet that you had this morning about are we living in Nazi Germany, what were you driving at there? What are you trying to tell the American public?

TRUMP: I think it was disgraceful — disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. I think it’s a disgrace, and I say that — and I say that, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do. I think it’s a disgrace that information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public.

As far as Buzzfeed, which is a failing pile of garbage, writing it, I think they’re going to suffer the consequences. They already are. And as far as CNN going out of their way to build it up — and by the way, we just found out I was coming down. Michael Cohen — I was being — Michael Cohen is a very talented lawyer. He’s a good lawyer in my firm. It was just reported that it wasn’t this Michael Cohen they we’re talking about. So all night long it’s Michael Cohen.

I said, “I want to see your passport.” He brings his passport to my office. I say, hey, wait a minute. He didn’t leave the country. He wasn’t out of the country. They had Michael Cohen of the Trump Organization was in Prague. It turned out to be a different Michael Cohen. It’s a disgrace what took place. It’s a disgrace and I think they ought to apologize to start with Michael Cohen.

QUESTION: Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question? Mr. President-elect —

TRUMP: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, since you are attacking our news organization…

TRUMP: Not you.

QUESTION: Can you give us a chance?

TRUMP: Your organization is terrible.

QUESTION: You are attacking our news organization, can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir? Sir, can you…

TRUMP: Quiet.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, can you say…

TRUMP: He’s asking a question, don’t be rude. Don’t be rude.

QUESTION: Can you give us a question since you’re attacking us? Can you give us a question?

TRUMP: Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. I’m not going to give you a question.

QUESTION: Can you state…

TRUMP: You are fake news. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sir, can you state categorically that nobody — no, Mr. President-elect, that’s not appropriate.

TRUMP: Go ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: Do you think President Obama went too far with the sanctions he put on Russia after the hacking?

TRUMP: I don’t think he went too far. No.

QUESTION: Will you roll them back? What do you think of Lindsey Graham’s plan to send you a bill for…

TRUMP: Plans to send me a bill for what?

QUESTION: Tougher sanctions.

TRUMP: I hadn’t heard Lindsey Graham was going to do that. Lindsey Graham. I’ve been competing with him for a long time. He is going to crack that one percent barrier one day. I didn’t realize Lindsey Graham still had it. That’s all right. I think Lindsey Graham is a nice guy. I’ve heard that he is a nice guy and I’ve been hearing it.

Go ahead. Go ahead. You’ve been waiting.

QUESTION: As far as we understand, the intelligence community…

TRUMP: Stand up.

QUESTION: From BBC news. Ian Pannell from BBC news.

TRUMP: BBC news. That’s another beauty.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.

As far as we understand it, the intelligence community are still looking at these allegations, this false news, as you describe it. If they come back with any kind of conclusion that any of it stands up, that any of it is true, will you consider your position…

TRUMP: There’s nothing they could come back with.

QUESTION: Can you…

TRUMP: Go ahead.

QUESTION: (inaudible) published fake news and all the problems that we’ve seen throughout the media over the course of the election, what reforms do you recommend for this industry here?

TRUMP: Well, I don’t recommend reforms. I recommend people that are — that have some moral compass.

You know, I’ve been hearing more and more about a thing called fake news and they’re talking about people that go and say all sorts of things. But I will tell you, some of the media outlets that I deal with are fake news more so than anybody. I could name them, but I won’t bother, but you have a few sitting right in front of us. They’re very, very dishonest people, but I think it’s just something we’re going to have to live with.

TRUMP: I guess the advantage I have is that I can speak back. When it happens to somebody that doesn’t have this — doesn’t have that kind of a megaphone, they can’t speak back. It’s a very sad thing. I’ve seen people destroyed. I’ve seen people absolutely destroyed. And I think it’s very unfair. So, all I can ask for is honest reporters.

Yes?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on the questions about the U.S. intelligence community. And be very clear about what you’re saying. Do you trust your U.S. intelligence officials? And what do you say to foreign policy experts who say you’re actually weakening national security by waging this war of words against that community?

TRUMP: Intelligence agencies are vital and very, very important. We are going to be putting in, as you know, Mr. Pompeo and others, you know the Senator Dan Coats. We’re going to be putting in some outstanding people. Within 90 days, they’re going to be coming back to me with a major report on hacking.

I want them to cover this situation. I also want them, however, to cover, maybe most importantly — because we’re hacked by everybody — you know, the United States, our government out of a list of 17 in terms of industries is the worst, it’s number 17, in terms of protection.

If you look at the retail industry, if you look at the banking industry, various industries, out of 17 industries — they put this in the category of an industry — the United States is last in terms of protecting, let’s say, hacking defense. Like we had a great hacking defense at the Republican National Committee.

That’s why we weren’t hacked. By the way, we were told that they were trying to hack us, but they weren’t able to hack. And I think I get some credit because I told Reince, and Reince did a phenomenal job, but I said I want strong hacking defense.

The Democratic National Committee didn’t do that. Maybe that’s why the country runs so badly that way. But I will tell you — wait — wait — wait, let me finish. Within 90 days, we will be coming up with a major report on hacking defense, how do we stop this new phenomena — fairly new phenomena because the United States is hacked by everybody.

That includes Russia and China and everybody — everybody. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Go ahead — go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, you said, just now, that you believe Russia indeed was responsible for the hacking of the DNC and Jon Podesta’s e-mails, et cetera.

TRUMP: All right, but you know what, it could have been others also.

QUESTION: But why did you spend weeks undermining U.S. intelligence community before simply getting the facts and then making a public statement?

TRUMP: Well, I think it’s pretty sad when intelligence reports get leaked out to the press. I think it’s pretty sad. First of all, it’s illegal. You know, these are — these are classified and certified meetings and reports.

I’ll tell you what does happen. I have many meetings with intelligence. And every time I meet, people are reading about it. Somebody’s leaking it out. So, there’s — maybe it’s my office. Maybe in my office because I have a lot of people, a lot of great people. Maybe it’s them. And what I did is I said I won’t tell anybody. I’m going to have a meeting and I won’t tell anybody about my meeting with intelligence.

And what happened is I had my meeting. Nobody knew, not even Rhona, my executive assistant for years, she didn’t know — I didn’t tell her. Nobody knew. The meeting was had, the meeting was over, they left. And immediately the word got out that I had a meeting.

So, I don’t want that — I don’t want that. It’s very unfair to the country. It’s very unfair to our country; what’s happened. That report should have never — first of all, it shouldn’t have been printed because it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. And I thank the New York Times for saying that.

I thank a lot of different people for saying that. But, I will tell you, that should never, ever happen. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign. And if you do indeed believe that Russia was behind the hacking, what is your message to Vladimir Putin right now?

TRUMP: He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading than when other people have led it. You will see that. Russia will respect our country more. He shouldn’t have done it. I don’t believe that he will be doing it more now.

We have to work something out, but it’s not just Russia. Take a look at what’s happened. You don’t report it the same way; 22 million accounts were hacked in this country by China. And that’s because we have no defense. That’s because we’re run by people that don’t know what they’re doing.

TRUMP: Russia will have far greater respect for our country when I’m leading it and I believe and I hope — maybe it won’t happen, it’s possible. But I won’t be giving (ph) a little reset button like Hillary. Here, press this piece of plastic. A guy looked at her like what is she doing? There’s no reset button. We’re either going to get along or we’re not. I hope we get along, but if we don’t, that’s possible too.

But Russia and other countries — and other countries, including China, which has taken total advantage of us economically, totally advantage of us in the South China Sea by building their massive fortress, total. Russia, China, Japan, Mexico, all countries will respect us far more, far more than they do under past administrations.

I want to thank everybody. So this is all — just so you understand, these papers — because I’m not sure that was explained properly. But these papers are all just a piece of the many, many companies that are being put into trust to be run by my two sons that I hope at the end of eight years, I’ll come back and say, oh, you did a good job. Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I’ll say, “You’re fired.”

Good-bye, everybody. Good-bye.

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 10, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address to the American People

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address to the American People

Source: USA-Today, 1-10-17

“It’s good to be home. My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes we’ve received over the past few weeks. But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks. Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people — in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant outposts — are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going. Every day, I learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

“I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life. It was in neighborhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills. It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss. This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.

“After eight years as your President, I still believe that. And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.

“It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

“This is the great gift our Founders gave us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.

“For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom. It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan — and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.

“So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional. Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.

“Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

“If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history…if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11…if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens — you might have said our sights were set a little too high.

“But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change. You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.

“In ten days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power from one freely-elected president to the next. I committed to President-Elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me. Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.

“We have what we need to do so. After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth. Our youth and drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention mean that the future should be ours.

“But that potential will be realized only if our democracy works. Only if our politics reflects the decency of the our people. Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.

“That’s what I want to focus on tonight – the state of our democracy.

“Understand, democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity — the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.

“There have been moments throughout our history that threatened to rupture that solidarity. The beginning of this century has been one of those times. A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the specter of terrorism — these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but our democracy as well. And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland.

“In other words, it will determine our future.

“Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity. Today, the economy is growing again; wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are rising again; poverty is falling again. The wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shatters records. The unemployment rate is near a ten-year low. The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower. Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in fifty years. And if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system — that covers as many people at less cost — I will publicly support it.

“That, after all, is why we serve – to make people’s lives better, not worse.

“But for all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough. Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles. While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind — the laid-off factory worker; the waitress and health care worker who struggle to pay the bills – convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful — a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.

“There are no quick fixes to this long-term trend. I agree that our trade should be fair and not just free. But the next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete.
And so we must forge a new social compact — to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible. We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.

“There’s a second threat to our democracy — one as old as our nation itself. After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago — you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

“But we’re not where we need to be. All of us have more work to do. After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves. If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children — because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce. And our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.

“Going forward, we must uphold laws against discrimination — in hiring, in housing, in education and the criminal justice system. That’s what our Constitution and highest ideals require. But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change. If our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation, each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’

“For blacks and other minorities, it means tying our own struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face — the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender American, and also the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change.

“For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; that when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised.

“For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, Italians, and Poles. America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; they embraced this nation’s creed, and it was strengthened.

“So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.

“None of this is easy. For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste — all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.

“This trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.

“Isn’t that part of what makes politics so dispiriting? How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations? How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing? It’s not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it’s self-defeating. Because as my mother used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you.

“Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years, we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our renewable energy, and led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet. But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change; they’ll be busy dealing with its effects: environmental disasters, economic disruptions, and waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.

“Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations; it betrays the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders.

“It’s that spirit, born of the Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse — the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket.

“It’s that spirit — a faith in reason, and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, and build a post-World War II order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but on principles — the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and an independent press.

“That order is now being challenged — first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets, open democracies, and civil society itself as a threat to their power. The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile. It represents the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.

“Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform, and the intelligence officers, law enforcement, and diplomats who support them, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years; and although Boston and Orlando remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever. We’ve taken out tens of thousands of terrorists — including Osama bin Laden. The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders, and taken away about half their territory. ISIL will be destroyed, and no one who threatens America will ever be safe. To all who serve, it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your Commander-in-Chief.

“But protecting our way of life requires more than our military. Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are. That’s why, for the past eight years, I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firm legal footing. That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, and reform our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties. That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans. That’s why we cannot withdraw from global fights — to expand democracy, and human rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights — no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem. For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.

“So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid. ISIL will try to kill innocent people. But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight. Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world — unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.

“Which brings me to my final point — our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. When voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote. When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

“And all of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings.

“Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power — with our participation, and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.

“In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but ‘from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken … to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;’ that we should preserve it with ‘jealous anxiety;’ that we should reject ‘the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties’ that make us one.

“We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.

“Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life. If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America — and in Americans — will be confirmed.

“Mine sure has been. Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in Charleston church. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and our wounded warriors walk again. I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.

“That faith I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change — that faith has been rewarded in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined. I hope yours has, too. Some of you here tonight or watching at home were there with us in 2004, in 2008, in 2012 — and maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off.

“You’re not the only ones. Michelle – for the past twenty-five years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.

“Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.

“To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son: you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best. Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother. We love you and Jill like family, and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our life.

“To my remarkable staff: For eight years — and for some of you, a whole lot more — I’ve drawn from your energy, and tried to reflect back what you displayed every day: heart, and character, and idealism. I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, and start incredible new journeys of your own. Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you. The only thing that makes me prouder than all the good we’ve done is the thought of all the remarkable things you’ll achieve from here.

“And to all of you out there — every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town and kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change — you are the best supporters and organizers anyone could hope for, and I will forever be grateful. Because yes, you changed the world.

“That’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than I was when we started. Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans — especially so many young people out there — to believe you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves. This generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

“My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain. For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

“I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.

“I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

“Yes We Can.

“Yes We Did.

“Yes We Can.

“Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.”

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 7, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address to the Nation Weekly Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: President Obama’s Farewell Address to the Nation

Source: WH, 1-7-17

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, President Obama discussed his upcoming farewell address to the nation. In 1796, as George Washington set the precedent for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power, he also set a precedent by penning a farewell address to the American people. And over the 220 years since, many American presidents have followed his lead. Next week, the President will return to his hometown of Chicago to say a grateful farewell to the nation. This will mark the first time that a President has returned to his hometown to deliver such a speech. The President has said that the running thread through his career has been the notion that when ordinary people get involved, get engaged and come together, things change for the better. This belief is at the heart of the American experiment in self-government – and it gives purpose to new generations. Through his address, the President will thank his supporters, celebrate the ways we have changed this country for the better these past eight years, and offer his vision on where we all go from here. The President will deliver his farewell address at 9:00 PM EST on Tuesday, January 10, at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. To tune in on Tuesday, visit WhiteHouse.gov/live.

Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address
The White House
January 7, 2017

Since the days of George Washington, presidents have delivered some form of final message while in office – a farewell address to the American people.

On Tuesday night, in Chicago, I’ll deliver mine.  I chose Chicago not only because it’s my hometown – where I met my wife and we started a family – but also because it’s really where my career in public service began.

The running thread through my career has been the notion that when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together in collective effort, things change for the better.

That’s the belief at the heart of this precious American experiment in self-government.  It’s what gives work and purpose to each new generation.

It’s easy to lose sight of that truth in the day-to-day back-and-forth of Washington and our minute-to-minute news cycles.  But remember that America is a story told over a longer time horizon, in fits and starts, punctuated at times by hardship, but ultimately written by generations of citizens who’ve somehow worked together, without fanfare, to form a more perfect union.

Over the past eight years, we’ve added our own new chapter to that story.

Together, we’ve turned an economy that was shrinking and losing jobs into one that’s growing and creating jobs, with poverty falling, incomes rising, and wages that have jumped faster over the past few years than at any time in the past four decades.

Together, we’ve achieved what eluded politicians of both parties for a century – we’ve moved 20 million more Americans from uninsured to insured, ended the days of discrimination against the up to half of Americans who have a preexisting condition, and secured new rights and protections for everybody with health insurance.

 

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 6, 2017: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Farewell Speech to the Nation

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Michelle Obama’s Final Remarks as First Lady

Source: Time, 1-6-17

OBAMA: Hey! (Applause.) What’s going on? (Applause.) Thank you all so much. You guys, that’s a command — rest yourselves. (Laughter.) We’re almost at the end. (Laughter.) Hello, everyone. And, may I say for the last time officially, welcome to the White House. Yes! (Applause.) Well, we are beyond thrilled to have you all here to celebrate the 2017 National School Counselor of the Year, as well as all of our State Counselors of the Year. These are the fine women, and a few good men — (laughter) — one good man — who are on this stage, and they represent schools from across this country.

And I want to start by thanking Terri for that wonderful introduction and her right-on-the-spot remarks. I’m going to say a lot more about Terri in a few minutes, but first I want to take a moment to acknowledge a few people who are here.

First, our outstanding Secretary of Education, John King. (Applause.) As well as our former Education Secretary, Arne Duncan. (Applause.) I want to take this time to thank you both publicly for your dedication and leadership and friendship. We couldn’t do this without the support of the Department of Education under both of your leadership. So I’m grateful to you personally, and very proud of all that you’ve done for this country.

I also want to acknowledge a few other special guests we have in the audience. We’ve got a pretty awesome crew. As one of my staff said, “You roll pretty deep.” (Laughter.) I’m like, well, yeah, we have a few good friends. We have with us today Ted Allen, La La Anthony, Connie Britton, Andy Cohen — yeah, Andy Cohen is here — (laughter) — Carla Hall, Coach Jim Harbaugh and his beautiful wife, who’s a lot better looking than him — (laughter) — Lana Parrilla, my buddy Jay Pharoah, Kelly Rowland, Usher —

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Woo!

MRS. OBAMA: Keep it down. (Laughter.) Keep it together, ladies. Wale is here. And of course, Allison Williams and her mom are here.

And all these folks are here because they’re using their star power to inspire our young people. And I’m so grateful to all of you for stepping up in so many ways on so many occasions. I feel like I’ve pestered you over these years, asking time and time again, “Well, where are you going to be?” “I’m going to be in New York.” “Can you come? Can you come here? Can you do this? Can you take that? Can you ask for that? Can you come? Can we rap? Can we sing?” (Laughter.) So thank you all so much. It really means the world to this initiative to have such powerful, respected and admired individuals speaking on behalf of this issue. So congratulations on the work that you’ve done, and we’re going to keep working.

And today, I especially want to recognize all these — extraordinary leadership team that was behind Reach Higher from day one. And this isn’t on the script so they don’t know this. I want to take time to personally acknowledge a couple of people. Executive Director Eric Waldo. (Applause.) Where is Eric? He’s in the — you’ve got to step out. (Applause.) Eric is acting like he’s a ham, but he likes the spotlight. (Laughter.) He’s acting a little shy. I want to recognize our Deputy Director, Stephanie Sprow. Stephanie. (Applause.) And he’s really not going to like this because he tries to pretend like he doesn’t exist at all, but our Senior Advisor, Greg Darnieder. (Applause.) There you go. Greg has been a leader in education his entire life. I’ve known him since I was a little organizer person. And it’s just been just a joy to work with you all. These individuals, they are brilliant. They are creative. They have worked miracles with hardly any staff or budget to speak of — which is how we roll in the First Lady’s Office. (Laughter.) And I am so proud and so, so grateful to you all for everything that you’ve done. So let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.)

And finally, I want to recognize all of you who are here in this audience. We have our educators, our leaders, our young people who have been with us since we launched Reach Higher back in 2014. Now, when we first came up with this idea, we had one clear goal in mind: We wanted to make higher education cool. We wanted to change the conversation around what it means and what it takes to be a success in this country. Because let’s be honest, if we’re always shining the spotlight on professional athletes or recording artists or Hollywood celebrities, if those are the only achievements we celebrate, then why would we ever think kids would see college as a priority?

So we decided to flip the script and shine a big, bright spotlight on all things educational. For example, we made College Signing Day a national event. We wanted to mimic all the drama and excitement traditionally reserved for those few amazing football and basketball players choosing their college and university teams. We wanted to focus that same level of energy and attention on kids going to college because of their academic achievements. Because as a nation, that’s where the spotlight should also be — on kids who work hard in school and do the right thing when no one is watching, many beating daunting odds.

Next, we launched Better Make Room. It’s a social media campaign to give young people the support and inspiration they need to actually complete higher education. And to really drive that message home, you may recall that I debuted my music career — (laughter) — rapping with Jay about getting some knowledge by going to college. (Laughter and applause.)

We are also very proud of all that this administration has done to make higher education more affordable. We doubled investments in Pell grants and college tax credits. We expanded income-based loan repayment options for tens of millions of students. We made it easier to apply for financial aid. We created a College Scorecard to help students make good decisions about higher education. And we provided new funding and support for school counselors. (Applause.) Altogether, we made in this administration the largest investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill. (Applause.) And today, the high school graduation rate is at a record high, and more young people than ever before are going to college.

And we know that school counselors like all of the folks standing with me on this stage have played a critical role in helping us get there. In fact, a recent study showed that students who met with a school counselor to talk about financial aid or college were three times more likely to attend college, and they were nearly seven times more likely to apply for financial aid.

So our school counselors are truly among the heroes of the Reach Higher story. And that’s why we created this event two years ago, because we thought that they should finally get some recognition. (Applause.) We wanted everyone to know about the difference that these phenomenal men and women have been making in the lives of our young people every day. And our 2017 School Counselor of the Year, Terri Tchorzynski, is a perfect example.

As you heard, Terri works at the Calhoun Area Career Center, a career and technical education school in Michigan. And here’s what Terri’s principal said about her in his letter of recommendation. He said, “Once she identifies a systemic need, she works tirelessly to address it.”

So when students at Terri’s school reported feeling unprepared to apply for higher education, Terri sprang into action to create a school-wide, top-to-bottom college-readiness effort. Under Terri’s leadership, more students than ever before attended workshops on resume writing, FAFSA completion — yes, I can now say FAFSA — (laughter) — and interview preparation. I can barely say it. (Laughter.) They did career and personal — personality assessments. They helped plan a special college week. And they organized a Military Day, hosting recruiters from all branches of our armed forces. And because of these efforts, today, 75 percent of Calhoun’s seniors now complete key college application steps, and Terri’s school has won state and national recognition.

And all of this is just one small part of what Terri does for her students each day. I can go on and on about all the time she spends one-on-one with students, helping them figure out their life path. Terri told us — as you heard, she told us about one of those students, so we reached out to Kyra. And here’s what Kyra had to say in her own words. Kyra wrote that “Mrs. Tchorzynski has helped me grow to love myself. She helped me with my doubts and insecurities.” She said, my life has changed “for the better in all aspects.” Kyra said, “She held my hand through my hardest times.” She said, “Mrs. Tchorzynski is my lifesaver.” That’s what Kyra said. (Laughter.)

And this is what each of you do every single day. You see the promise in each of your students. You believe in them even when they can’t believe in themselves, and you work tirelessly to help them be who they were truly meant to be. And you do it all in the face of some overwhelming challenges — tight budgets, impossible student- counselor ratios — yeah, amen — (laughter) — endless demands on your time.

You all come in early, you stay late. You reach into your own pockets — and see, we’ve got the amen corner. (Laughter.) You stick with students in their darkest moments, when they’re most anxious and afraid. And if anyone is dealing with a college [high school] senior or junior, you know what this feels like. These men and women show them that those kids matter; that they have something to offer; that no matter where they’re from or how much money their parents have, no matter what they look like or who they love or how they worship or what language they speak at home, they have a place in this country.

And as I end my time in the White House, I can think of no better message to send our young people in my last official remarks as First Lady. So for all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you — to all of you, from every background and walk of life. If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition — the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on earth.

If your family doesn’t have much money, I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little. But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming President. That’s what the American Dream is all about. (Applause.)

If you are a person of faith, know that religious diversity is a great American tradition, too. In fact, that’s why people first came to this country — to worship freely. And whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh — these religions are teaching our young people about justice, and compassion, and honesty. So I want our young people to continue to learn and practice those values with pride. You see, our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are. (Applause.) So the young people here and the young people out there: Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t matter, or like you don’t have a place in our American story — because you do. And you have a right to be exactly who you are. But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Right now, you need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation. You need to prepare yourself to be informed and engaged as a citizen, to serve and to lead, to stand up for our proud American values and to honor them in your daily lives. And that means getting the best education possible so you can think critically, so you can express yourself clearly, so you can get a good job and support yourself and your family, so you can be a positive force in your communities.

And when you encounter obstacles — because I guarantee you, you will, and many of you already have — when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago, something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our lives, and that is the power of hope — the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it.

It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe they, too, will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves.

That is the hope of students like Kyra who fight to discover their gifts and share them with the world. It’s the hope of school counselors like Terri and all these folks up here who guide those students every step of the way, refusing to give up on even a single young person. Shoot, it’s the hope of my — folks like my dad who got up every day to do his job at the city water plant; the hope that one day, his kids would go to college and have opportunities he never dreamed of.

That’s the kind of hope that every single one of us — politicians, parents, preachers — all of us need to be providing for our young people. Because that is what moves this country forward every single day — our hope for the future and the hard work that hope inspires.

So that’s my final message to young people as First Lady. It is simple. (Applause.) I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid — you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.

And that is true I know for every person who are here — is here today, and for educators and advocates all across this nation who get up every day and work their hearts out to lift up our young people. And I am so grateful to all of you for your passion and your dedication and all the hard work on behalf of our next generation. And I can think of no better way to end my time as First Lady than celebrating with all of you.

So I want to close today by simply saying thank you. Thank you for everything you do for our kids and for our country. Being your First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I’ve made you proud.

Permalink

Full Text Political Transcripts January 4, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Armed Forces Full Honor Review Farewell Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Armed Forces Full Honor Review Farewell Ceremony

Source: WH, 1-4-17

Joint Base Myer-Henderson
Fort Myer, Virginia

3:21 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Please be seated.

Well, good afternoon.  It turns out these are easier when you’re talking about somebody else.  (Laughter.)  At a moment like this, I think of all the times I’ve stood before our men and women in uniform.  Commissioning our newest officers.  Presiding over promotions.  Presenting the Commander-in Chief’s Trophy to — the best football team in the military.  I will let you argue over that one.  (Laughter.)  I have never taken sides.

Secretary Carter, I could not be more grateful for your gracious words, but more importantly, for your outstanding leadership, across, as you noted, more than three decades and nearly all of my presidency.  You have always given me, Ash, your best strategic counsel.  You’ve made sure that we were investing in innovation for the long term and a strong Force of the Future.  As a physicist, Ash is also one of the few people who actually understands how our defense systems work.  And I know that our troops and their families are immensely grateful for the compassion that you and Stephanie have shown them over the years.  So to you and your family, on behalf of all of us, thank you for your outstanding service.  (Applause.)

General Dunford, we’ve relied on you as Commandant of the Marine Corps, as our commander in Afghanistan, and now, as our nation’s highest-ranking military officer.  I thank you, and General Selva and the entire Joint Chiefs for the unvarnished military advice that you’ve always provided to me, for your dedication, for your professionalism, for you integrity.  Because of you, because of this team, our Armed Forces are more integrated and better prepared across domains — a truly Joint Force.  Which is why, as a White Sox fan, I can overlook the fact that you love the Red Sox.  (Laughter.)  Moreover, on a personal note, outside of your professional qualities, you are a good man, and I am grateful to have worked with you.  And thank Ellyn for allowing you to do this.  (Applause.)

To members of Congress; Vice President Biden — who, along with Jill, has known the love and the pride and the sacrifice of a military family.  To Deputy Secretary Work; service secretaries; distinguished guests; dedicated civilians from across the Defense Department; my national security team; most of all, our men and women in uniform.  I thank you for this honor, and for the warmth and respect that you’ve always shown me, the support that you’ve shown Michelle and our daughters during these past eight years.

And so, although I recognize that the formalities require me listening to praise directed in large part to me, I want to turn the tables — I am still Commander-in-Chief, so I get to do what I want to do — and I want to thank you.  Of all the privileges of this office — and there are many — I will miss Air Force One, I will miss Marine One — (laughter) — but I can stand before you today and say that there has been no greater privilege, and no greater honor, than serving as the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military in the history of the world.  (Applause.)

When I took office, I noted that Presidents and those of you in uniform swear a similar oath — to protect and defend this country and the Constitution that we cherish.  By stepping forward and volunteering, by raising your right hand and taking that oath, each of you made a solemn pledge.  You committed yourself to a life of service and of sacrifice.  And I, in turn, made a promise to you, which, to the best of my abilities, I’ve  tried to uphold every single day since, that I would only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, with the strategy, the well-defined goals, with the equipment and the support that you needed to get the job done.  Because that’s what you rightfully expect and that is what you rightfully deserve.

I made that pledge at a time when less than one percent of Americans wear the uniform.  Fewer Americans know someone who serves.  And as a result, a lot of Americans don’t see the sacrifices you make on our behalf.  But as Commander-in-Chief, I do.  I’ve seen it when I looked into the eyes of young cadets, knowing that my decisions could very well send them into harm’s way.  I’ve seen it when I’ve visited the field — at Bagram and Baghdad — far from your families, risking your lives so that we can live ours safely and in freedom.  And so you’ve inspired me, and I have been humbled by you consistently.  And I want every American to know what I know — through year after year after year of continuous military operations — you have earned your place among the greatest generations.

The list of accomplishments that Joe and Ash so generously mentioned, they’re because of you.  It’s what I tell my staff — I’m the front man, but you’re the ones doing the work.  Because of you, our alliances are stronger, from Europe to the Asia Pacific.  Because of you, we surged in Afghanistan, trained Afghan forces to defend their country, while bringing most of our troops home.  Today our forces serve there on a more limited mission — because we must never again allow Afghanistan to be used for a safe haven in attacks against our nation.

It’s because of you — particularly our remarkable Special Forces — that the core al Qaeda leadership that attacked us on 9/11 has been decimated.  Countless terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are gone.  From South Asia to Africa, we have forged partnerships to go after terrorists that threaten us.  Because of you, we are leading a global coalition against ISIL.  These terrorists have lost about half of their territory.  They are losing their leaders.  Towns and cities are being liberated.  And I have no doubt this barbaric terrorist group will be destroyed — because of you.

You’ve shown that when it comes to fighting terrorism, we can be strong and we can be smart.  Not by letting our forces get dragged into sectarian conflicts and civil wars, but with smart, sustainable, principled partnerships.  That’s how we’ve brought most of our troops home — nearly 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan down to 15,000 today.  That’s how, even as we’ve suffered terrible attacks here at home, from Boston to Orlando, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years.

Because of you, the world has seen the awesome reach of American Armed Forces.  In some of the first few weeks of my job, when Somali pirates took Captain Phillips, later on, when they kidnapped Jessica Buchanan, it was you that went in and you that risked everything, and you that brought these Americans home to their families.

The world has seen your compassion — the help you deliver in times of crisis, from an earthquake in Haiti to the tsunami in Japan.  Think of Ebola and the countless lives this Armed Forces saved in West Africa.  It was you that set up the architecture and set the example for the world’s response.  One woman in West Africa said, “We thanked God first and then we thanked America second for caring about us.”  That’s the difference you make — you continue to make — in the lives of people around the world.

As you know well, with service comes great sacrifice.  And after 15 years of war, our wounded warriors bear the scars — both seen and unseen.  In my visits to their bedsides and rehab centers, I have been in awe, watching a wounded warrior grab his walker and pull himself up and, and through excruciating pain, take a step, and then another.  Or hearing troops describe how they grappled with post-traumatic stress but summoned the strength to ask for help.  As a military and as a nation, we have to keep supporting our resilient and incredibly strong wounded warriors as they learn to walk and run and heal.  As they find new ways to keep serving our nation, they need to know that we still need your incredible talents.  You’ve given so much to America, and I know you have more to give.

And then you have not seen the depths of true love and true patriotism until you’ve been to Dover, when our troops receive our fallen heroes on their final journey home; until you have grieved with our Gold Star families who’ve given a piece of their heart to our nation — a son or a daughter, a father or mother, a husband or wife, a brother or a sister.  Every one a patriot.  Every single one of these American families deserves the everlasting gratitude and support of our entire nation.

Today, after two major ground wars, our Armed Forces have drawn down, and that is natural and it is necessary.  And after reckless budget cuts of sequester, we need to keep improving the readiness, and the training, and modernizing our forces.  So let me take this opportunity, while I still have it, to appeal to our friends from Congress who are here:  We cannot go back to sequestration.  There is a responsible way forward — investing in America’s strengths, our national security and our economic security.  Investing in the reform and the equipment and support that our troops need, including the pay and the benefits, and the quality of life, and the education and the jobs that our troops and our veterans and all of your families deserve.

But make no mistake, even with the challenges of recent years — and there have been challenges– our allies and adversaries alike understand America’s military remains, by far, the most capable fighting force on the face of the Earth.  Our Army, tested by years of combat, is the best-trained and best-equipped land force on the planet.  Our Navy is the largest and most lethal in the world — on track to surpass 300 ships.  Our Air Force, with its precision and reach, is unmatched.  Our Marine Corps is the world’s only truly expeditionary force.  Our Coast Guard is the finest in the world.

And we’re also the best because this military has come to welcome the talents of more of our fellow Americans.  Service members can now serve the country they love without hiding who they are or who they love.  All combat positions in our military are now open to women.  And Joe Biden and I know that women are at least as strong as men.  We’re stronger for it.  It’s one of the reasons that our military stands apart as the most respected institution in our nation by a mile.  (Applause.)  The American people look up to you and your devotion to duty, and your integrity, and your sense of honor, and your commitment to each other.

One of my proudest achievements is that I have been able to, I think, communicate through the constant partisan haze, along with so many others, how special this institution is, and the esteem in which our military is held has held steady and constant and high throughout my presidency.  And I’m very grateful for that.  Because you remind us that we are united as one team.  At times of division, you’ve shown what it means to pull together.

So my days as your Commander-in-Chief are coming to an end, and as I reflect on the challenges we have faced together and on those to come, I believe that one of the greatest tasks before our Armed Forces is to retain the high confidence that the American people rightly place in you.  This is a responsibility not simply for those of you in uniform, but for those who lead you.  It’s the responsibility of our entire nation.

And so we are called to remember core principles:  That we must never hesitate to act when necessary to defend our nation, but we must also never rush into war — because sending you into harm’s way should be a last and not first resort.  It should be compelled by the needs of our security and not our politics.  We need to remember that we must not give in to the false illusion of isolationism, because in this dangerous time, oceans alone will not protect us, and the world still seeks and needs our leadership as the one indispensable nation.

We have to remember that our military has to be prepared for the full spectrum of threats, conventional and unconventional, from 20th century-style aggression to 21st century-style cyber threats.  And when we do go to war, we have to hold ourselves to high standards and do everything in our power to prevent the loss of innocent life, because that’s what we stand for.  That’s what we should stand for.  We have to remember that as we meet the threats of our time, we cannot sacrifice our values or our way of life — the rule of law and openness and tolerance that defines us as Americans, that is our greatest strength and makes us a beacon to the world.  We cannot sacrifice the very freedoms that we’re fighting for.

And finally, in our democracy, the continued strength of our all-volunteer force also rests on something else — a strong bond of respect and trust between those in uniform and the citizens that you protect and defend.  At a time when too few Americans truly understand the realities or sacrifices of military service, at a time when many political leaders have not served, if some in the military begin to feel as though somehow they are apart from the larger society they serve those bonds can fray.

As every generation learns anew, freedom is not free.  And so while less than 1 percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, 100 percent of Americans can do their parts — at the very least — to support you and your families.  Everybody can do something — every business, every profession, every school, every community, every state — to reach out and to give back, and to let you know that we care, to help make the lives of our troops and your families just a little bit easier.  Everybody can do something.

And that’s why Michelle and Jill Biden have mobilized more Americans to honor and support you and your families through Joining Forces.  And that’s why, even after we leave the White House, Michelle and I intend to keep on looking for ways to help rally more of our fellow citizens to be there for you, just like you’ve always been there for us.

So we can’t say it enough and we can’t show it enough.  Thank you for your patriotism.  Thank you for your professionalism.  Thank you for your character in representing the very best of the American spirit.  Our nation endures — we live free under the red, white and blue — because of patriots like you.

It has been a privilege of a lifetime to serve with you.  I have learned much from you.  I’m a better man having worked with you.  I’m confident that the United States and our Armed Forces will remain the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known.

God bless you and your families.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
3:44 P.M. EST

Permalink
%d bloggers like this: